Cotton Dust

Cotton Dust

Hazard Overview

Hazard Overview

What is cotton dust?

Cotton dust is the dust present in the air during the handling and processing of cotton. Dust from raw cotton may contain a mixture of substances including ground up plant matter, bacteria, fungi, pesticides and other contaminants.

What are the hazards associated with cotton dust?

The principal hazard associated with cotton dust is byssinosis ("brown lung disease"). The onset of byssinosis is characterized by a feeling chest tightness and shortness of breath on the first day of work after a weekend or holiday. As exposure to the causative dust continues, these symptoms persist throughout the week, and in advanced stages, byssinosis causes chronic, irreversible obstructive lung disease. Although exposure to cotton dust is by the most common cause, other fibers like flax and hemp can also produce byssinosis.

An additional hazard exists where, due to inadequate ventilation and housekeeping practices, cotton dust is permitted to accumulate on surfaces. Excessive build up of cotton dust, a type of combustible dust, could result in fires and explosions when conditions are present leading to extensive property damage and physical injury or death.

Solutions

Solutions

What can I do to protect myself?

Workers in textile operations where cotton is used must be medically evaluated for the presence of byssinosis. When equipment is cleaned using compressed air ("blow down" or "blow off"), nonessential employees must leave the area. Those employees who are required to perform this operation, must be provided with respirators in accordance with an effective respiratory protection program.

What resources are available to assist employers?

An example respirator program and respiratory protection PowerPoint presentation are available and can be customized to fit workplace conditions. More information on respirators can be found on the A-Z topics page for respiratory protection.

In addition, the NCDOL Library offers free safety and health videos and related research assistance on consensus standards (i.e., ANSI, NFPA, NEC). The education, training and technical assistance bureau provides free online safety and health training and outreach services (i.e., speaker's bureau requests, safety booths) upon request.

 

 

 

Regulations

Regulations

Which standards apply?

OSH has adopted the following standards for cotton dust in North Carolina:

Learn More

Learn More

Where can I learn more?

If you would like to receive interpretive guidance on this or any other OSH standard or topic, you can submit your questions using the Ask OSH web form, by e-mail to ask.osh@labor.nc.gov or by calling 919-707-7876.