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what is dust

Dust in the air – Dust and particulate matter explained by the experts

Dust formation and definition

In simple terms, dust is a form of air pollution consisting of airborne particles that are often referred to as particulate matter (PM).

Dust in industrial workplaces can occur naturally – as pollen, for example – or from human activity, including manufacturing, construction, farming and quarrying. Particulate matter comes in different sizes, some of which is invisible to the naked eye.

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Causes of dust formation
  • Manufacturing processes, such as cutting, grinding and drilling
  • Wind and rain erosion, which create atmospheric dust
  • Industrial burning processes and traffic
  • Natural sources such as pollen, fungi and bacteria
clean air service particles potential danger

Tiny, invisible particles known as ultrafine particles and measuring less than 0.001 mm.


Bigger than PM1 and the most common type of dust, often described as fine particles or alveolar dust. Measuring less than 0.0025 mm.


Much larger particles but still measuring less than 0.01 mm, these can be seen with the naked eye.

Coarse particles

Particles such as sand or hair that are larger than, or equal to, 0.01 mm.

Black carbon

A mixture of particles produced by the inefficient burning of fossil fuels and biomass.

Total suspended particles

Total suspended particles: A catch-all term to describe particles of all sizes.

Dust and your health

A good rule of thumb is the smaller the dust particle, the more potentially damaging it can be to your health. Regular exposure to fine and ultrafine particles (PM2.5 or smaller) can cause significant health problems. PM1 particles are so small they can move from your lungs into your bloodstream and damage many other organs. 

Zehnder's air cleaning systems offer hundreds of different filter combinations to capture dangerous dust pollutants – get in touch today!

dust affects human health
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