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Crystalline silica: the outside air also poses a danger

Most companies are aware of the dangers threatening their employees when contaminants like crystalline silica are present in their industrial operations. This is one reason why high-performance dust collectors like those from Airex are found in this type of environment. But did you know that in some contexts, such as in the mining sector, the outside air can also be contaminated and pose a considerable risk?

An invisible, very harmful contaminant

During excavation work or open pit blasting, dust loaded with crystalline silica is picked up and spread by the wind. The problem: nearby buildings draw their fresh air in from the outside through an air intake unit and then distribute it through their internal ventilation system. Since the primary function of a central air system is not to purify the outside air, the filters of this type of equipment are far from suitable for filtering out silica. The particles of this carcinogenic contaminant are sometimes so fine that they can’t be completely captured by the filters. So, they spread into the factories, the administrative premises, the cafeteria, etc. Imagine finding a layer of unhealthy dust on your desk every morning!

These fine particles also pose a risk to some devices. Think of an electrical room where the environment must be closely controlled. Fresh air supply is essential for maintaining positive pressure in the room and preventing dust infiltration. However, if the distributed air contains contaminants, they can build up on the panels or circuit breakers. We have already seen a situation where the build-up of particles caused a short circuit followed by a fire in an electrical room.

Another negative consequence: the volume of dust in the outside air around a mine is so great that the filters of central air systems quickly clog up. Their filtering surface and their composition aren’t sufficient for handling that many particles. Since air circulation inside buildings is essential, these filters must be changed frequently – sometimes weekly. The production downtime needed for maintaining the filters can become critical if, for example, the central air system is dedicated to cooling some process or other.

Although the mining industry is particularly affected, this situation can inconvenience any industry sector. Near a job site, quarry or excavation site, the presence of crystalline silica, contaminants or even bacteria can become problematic if the filters in your central air system are not effective enough.

A simple yet innovative solution

Having encountered this problem with a number of clients, our team looked into the matter: if it’s possible to deal with the dust produced inside the plant, should we manage to prevent it from entering?

The main difference between a central air system and a dust collector involves the filtration technology. The first one is designed to prevent debris from getting into the ductwork. Whereas the second one has a much superior filtration effectiveness and is specifically intended to purify the air.

central air dust collection

A dust collector placed upstream processes the air before it reaches the central air system

To reduce maintenance costs and ensure the safety of employees working in the mining sector, our experts created an installation that gives central air systems the performance of a dust collector – and its longevity.

A dust collector placed upstream processes the air before it reaches the central air system. Designed without a hopper, the dust collector’s body is open, thus allowing dust to be released into the atmosphere during declogging. Since it comes from the outside environment, there’s no need to collect it. It is dispersed into the wind. As for fine dust, it is captured by MERV 16 filter cartridges. Once purified, the air is routed to the central air system. Note that the outside dust load is considerably less than the one for an industrial process. Therefore, under these conditions, the dust collector’s filters can last for years!

This fully integrated solution enables you to meet the requirements of the health and safety standards, while reducing the amount allocated for maintenance and limiting production downtime.

Whether the contaminants that you’re concerned about are inside or outside your facilities, our experts will be able to find the right solution for your needs. Don’t hesitate to contact us!


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