The health hazards of dolomite has been a widely discussed topic as of late. In particular, people are worried by the possible effects of dolomite exposure to the skin and lungs.
Recently, it’s been used as artificial sand to rehabilitate Manila bay shoreline. But many are concerned that it poses a threat to marine life as well as the health of those who come into contact with it.
But before we get to the health hazards of dolomite, what exactly is this mineral, and what is it used for?
What is dolomite?
Dolomite is a mineral with the chemical composition of CaMg(CO3)2, or Calcium Magnesium Carbonate. It’s commonly found alongside deposits of limestone, and it is usually whitish or light brown in color.
It is a relatively common mineral, and a lot of quarries process dolomite as it is a widely used mineral.
What is it used for?
Dolomite is one of the most common sources of concrete, and it’s a very important mineral when it comes to building and home construction as well as road building. It also finds usage when it comes to producing magnesium.
Dolomite is also widely used in metal processing, production of glass, bricks, as well as ceramics.
In homes, dolomite is used as an ornamental stone. Gardeners also use dolomite dust or sand to help reduce the pH level of soil. It can also be added to aquariums to adjust the pH level of the water.
Another use of dolomite is for livestock feed. It is sometimes added to provide calcium and magnesium, as well as a filler for animal feed.
Dolomite boulders are also crushed up and used as a substitute for sand.
Interestingly, dolomite has also seen some use as a health supplement. Because it contains both calcium and magnesium, it is believed that it can help people with low calcium and bone problems. However, most doctors would advise against taking dolomite tablets because it can sometimes contain lead and other toxic minerals.
What are the possible health hazards of dolomite?
Dolomite is generally known to be safe and non-toxic. This means that touching, or even inhaling dolomite poses little threat to health.
It’s referred to as a nuisance dust, which means that while it can cause some discomfort in a person’s lungs, there is little harm that it can do. In contrast, other minerals such as silica can have a harmful effect on a person’s lungs when the dust gets inhaled.
This is why N95 masks are necessary in construction sites, as well as industries that handle and process minerals that can cause dust.
In the Philippines, dolomite dust in particular has been deemed as safe by the Department of Health. This is mostly due to the fact that the particles are too large to be inhaled, and thus cannot irritate the lungs.
However, some studies have claimed the contrary. And despite being considered safe, there is very little information found regarding the long-term effects of dolomite.
What do other studies say?
One study focused on 39 respondents who were part of a team digging and excavating a dam. They were tested alongside 40 other team members who were not at all exposed to dolomite or dolomite dust.
They were interviewed and given a questionnaire to identify what possible effects dolomite exposure could have. In addition, they underwent chest X-rays, as well as tests to check their lung function.
The researchers found that about 50% of the dust that the workers were exposed to comprised of dolomite dust. And among the workers who were exposed to dolomite, symptoms of wheezing, coughing, and increased phlegm were very common.
The exposed subjects’ FEV1/FVC ratio, or the number used to calculate lung disease, were also very different compared to those who were not exposed. However, there were no problems found when the X-ray results were checked
Their results imply that while dolomite did not cause any significant harm, there was some evidence to show that it is not as non-toxic as it seems. It is possible that exposure to large amounts of dolomite dust can potentially cause long-term lung problems.
In addition, several safety sheets from building material companies advise precautions when handling dolomite.
They recommended that workers avoid inhaling dolomite dust directly. Another safety recommendation is to wash any exposed skin after handling dolomite dust.
But for dolomite sand, the safety sheets generally claim it as non-toxic and should pose no harm when touched or inhaled.
Regardless of whether or not dolomite is harmful or not, it is still a good idea to try and practice certain safety precautions. In particular, exposure to dolomite dust can be a possible concern, so it is important to follow these safety reminders:
- When working in a place that handles dolomite dust or sand, it would be a good idea to wear an N95 mask to avoid breathing it in.
- It would also be a good idea to wear long-sleeved shirts to prevent possible irritation to the skin.
- As much as possible, try to avoid dusty areas. In particular people with lung problems should avoid dolomite dust or sand if possible.
- Using vacuums when cleaning up dolomite sand or dust can also help prevent tiny particles from being inhaled.
- Proper storage and transformation of dolomite dust and sand should also be practiced.
By following these tips, people can help ensure their lungs stay healthy and are free from any harmful particles.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.