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In previous blogs, we’ve examined wet and dry approaches to dust extraction, along with the dangers posed by fumes from metalworking, 3D printing, laser tattoo removal, nail salons and dental procedures.

Here, we delve into the ins and outs of stone downflow extraction, including what it is and the dangers of not investing in it for stoneworkers.

What is a stone downdraft extractor?

A downdraft (or downflow) extractor is a low-set extraction system designed to draw air (including any harmful toxins) downwards into it, before that air can rise into the breathing zone. A stone downdraft extractor is designed to suck in and filter away the particularly abrasive dusts given off by stonemasonry processes. Stone downdraft extractors are therefore an essential part of protecting people in those environments, while keeping such businesses COSHH compliant.

What are the main dangers of dust from stoneworking?

A stoneworker chiselling away at stone

Thankfully, stone dusts are non-combustible – meaning they aren’t an explosion risk. Instead, the main danger from stonemasonry is a slower, more insidious threat; Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS) – commonly known simply as Silica.

Breathing in too much Silica can cause a person to develop Silicosis, an interstitial lung disease for which the main symptom is permanent lung scarring (known medically as pulmonary fibrosis) and inflammation that can make breathing difficult. Silicosis can also lead to further complications that include lung cancer, tuberculosis, bronchitis and kidney disease, along with other autoimmune diseases.

It can take between 10 and 30 years to develop this lung scarring. They may not notice the damage at first, but in its later stages sufferers might need oxygen and other breathing aids simply to live, such is the damage that Silica dust can cause to your breathing capacity.

How do stonemasons solve dust extraction issues?

Perhaps the most typical method of dust extraction in stonemasonry is to use wet filtration. However, this can be a problem, as water-based filtration is usually only effective to around 10 microns. Stone dusts can be significantly smaller.

In other types of extraction, HEPA filters are typically used for particulate below 10 microns. However, HEPA filters typically don’t work in wet atmospheres. That means successfully filtering out harmful stone dusts requires a different approach altogether.

One possible option is to use a filtration system with an extraction arm – the same approach used by the VODEX DentalAIR UVC® in dental surgery settings. Our DUSTOMAT-16 M series (pictured below) is designed for exactly that purpose, and works with a wide range of mobile workstations to capture dusts from materials such graphite,  concrete, and of course stone.

One big problem, several possible answers

A stonemason using a Vodex downdraft extractorThere may not be one set answer for the problem of stonemasonry dust, but that’s okay – because at VODEX, we cover all possibilities.

Our extensive range of aggregates and stonemasonry extraction systems are designed specially to handle the heaviness of stone and brick dusts, filtering them out in a variety of ways to ensure your workforce is protected from the harmful effects of breathable Silica.

Chief among these options is the H13 HEPA filter fitted AirBench RP Downdraft Bench, an extraction solution built specially to handle heavier dust loads. Its inbuilt reverse pulse jet system ensures the filters are cleaned of excess dust by a short, sharp blast of compressed air, and that dust is then collected in trays beneath the filters – allowing for easy cleaning and disposal.

AirBench RP Downdraft Bench

Do you need stone downflow extraction in your workspace?

If you work with stone regularly, you may be in genuine danger of developing Silicosis from regularly breathing in harmful Silica fumes.

Concerned that could be the case? Read our blog about conducting a COSHH assessment to help gauge if your workspace needs an extraction solution, then get in touch with us to discuss the most appropriate options.

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