Worldwide, Cement Dust is a Serious Issue


Editor’s note: I’m very liberal about reader comments. So long as you aren’t calling people names or snapping at them, your opinion is your opinion. But I’ve detected some pooh-poohing in comments about the cement dust spill at the port the other day. You’d think the people living near the spill whose porches were covered with cement dust were snowflakes.

For the pooh-poohers, and for people who are more seriously concerned about cement dust, I’ve rounded up some studies indicating that not only is cement dust a concern in Fernandina Beach, it’s been studied and warned about around the world.

Cement Plant Neighbors in Korea – Study

Purpose: Portland cement contains carcinogens such as chromium and free silica, and hence, inhalation of cement dust can cause respiratory tract cancers. The purpose of this study was to determine whether living near a cement plant increases the risk of respiratory tract cancers.

Methods: The study population consisted of 341,793 people, all of whom lived in administrative districts within a 3-km radius of 10 cement plants in Korea. The respiratory tract cancer incidence data (International Classification of Diseases, 10th revision code C00-C14 and C30-C34) for 2008-2012 were obtained from regional cancer registries. Standardized incidence ratios (SIRs) for each cancer site in the respiratory tract were calculated using an indirect standardization method.

Results: Compared with the general Korean population, the incidence of lung and bronchus cancer (C33-C34) was significantly higher in all subjects [SIR 1.15, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.02-1.29] and especially in the men subjects (SIR 1.47, 95% CI 1.29-1.68) in our study population. In addition, the incidence of larynx cancer in men (SIR 1.64, 95% CI 0.97-2.59) and salivary gland cancer in women (SIR 3.03, 95% CI 0.98-7.07) living near cement plants was marginally increased.

Conclusions: These results suggest that environmental exposure to Portland cement dust is a risk factor for respiratory tract cancer.

Cement Dust Hazards (OSHA)

Avoid exposure to cement dust to prevent bronchitis and silicosis.

Prevent burns and skin and eye irritation by avoiding skin contact and eye contact with cement dust or wet cement.

Wear the appropriate personal protective equipment, such as gloves, boots, goggles or HEPA-filter respirators.

Avoid dusty areas and wet down work areas, as appropriate, to reduce or eliminate dust.

Saudi Medical Journal Study

Cement dust causes lung function impairment, chronic obstructive lung disease, restrictive lung disease, pneumoconiosis and carcinoma of the lungs, stomach and colon. Other studies have shown that cement dust may enter into the systemic circulation and thereby reach essentially all the organs of the body and affects the different tissues including the heart, liver, spleen, bone, muscles, and hairs and ultimately affecting their micro-structure and physiological performance.

A Study in the Congo

Chronic exposure to cement dust may induce adverse health effects, including a significant decrease in lung function. The study investigated whether the prevalence of COPD and respiratory symptoms was associated with working at different tasks exposed to varying levels of cement dust. Working at certain tasks exposed to cement dust is associated with the higher prevalence of COPD and respiratory symptoms. A greater risk is among cleaning, transportation, and production workers.

And there’s much more. But I’m pretty sure I could wear Google out looking for a study that says cement dust on the loose is not serious business. If you wish to address city or port officials about this or any other issue, go to the City Commission meeting at 6 p.m. at City Hall or the port commissioners meeting at 6 p.m. at the Lime Street city police building.

–Mike Phillips

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Robert S. Warner, Jr.
Robert S. Warner, Jr. (@guest_67079)
1 year ago

Thank’s Mike. A dose of reality for OHPA and us.

BigMoney (@guest_67085)
1 year ago

Nice blog, keep it up.

Margaret Kirkland
Margaret Kirkland(@kirkland-mrk)
1 year ago

It also kills plants by increasing the alkalinity in the soil and interfering with their functions, kills fish, etc. This is a recipe for a serious economic decline for the entire county. And it is alarming that the employees trying to clean up the cement dust weren’t given accurate information regarding the danger.

Nicholas Velvet
Nicholas Velvet (@guest_67088)
1 year ago

Less Chicken Little and more…….Perspective Folks. As well as aWebsters dictionary read as to what “chronic exposure” is. In terms of a concrete plant i.e. a manufacturing facility, day in and day out exposure by workers literally on top of the production dust. That vs. a 200 lbs. or two…or three bags which broke. Really. I’m sure next “event” someone will shoot a You Tube video showing the front of houses coated, etc. and we can each make our own informed judgement on the threat level. Me, the Jury is still out on this one.

Old Chinese saying…..when everyone is looking to the Left….look to the Right if you want to know what the real story is………think Cruze Ships! buses and porta potties. Talk about phooooooh.

Robert Warner
Robert Warner (@guest_67089)
1 year ago

Nicholas… Glance through this article on how to transport cement. I think it makes OHPA and Port Operator excuses more dangerous than usual.

Peggy Bulger
Peggy Bulger(@peggy-bulger1949gmail-com)
1 year ago

Once again, we are forced to protest and fight for the health of our community. The OHPA and Port Authority need to work with the residents of Fernandina Beach to ensure that the port is not destroying the quality of life that has made our home a wonderful place to live and work. It seems that there is no thought about the big picture, it’s always, always all about the money!!

John Findlay
John Findlay(@jfindlay)
1 year ago

Thank you for posting this. As you point out, some will search Google ad infinitum to find studies that say that exposure to cement dust is safe. Just like climate change and smoking, etc,, there will always be a few who purport to find the opposite of what the consensus opinion is. But people need to be aware of this danger and take steps to prevent it being a problem for those who live nearby.

bob (@guest_67092)
1 year ago

I agree that one or two bags bursting, and being cleaned away is not a big deal. The big deal is should this repeatedly occur, there certainly will be problems, and not just for the nearby homes. There are sensitive wetlands adjacent to the spill zone. There is a multi-million dollar Historic District surrounding the spill zone. Break bulk and cement bags might not be a reasonable product to ship from this small port. I hope the port managers reconsider their product selection.

wayne cochran
wayne cochran (@guest_67093)
1 year ago

One of the great values of media is to inform with data and facts, allowing individuals to make informed decisions. Thank you, Mike, for doing that!

Robert Sheretta
Robert Sheretta (@guest_67095)
1 year ago

Good point editor. I knew one contractor who had to leave the concrete paving industry because of severe allergic reactions. And I just came across this tidbit:
The production of concrete accounts for ~3x the amount of carbon emissions as aviation.
That figure is especially concerning with the world’s building stock on track to double by 2060.

1 year ago

Is there a cement plant on the island?

John Goshco
John Goshco (@guest_67106)
1 year ago
Reply to  Audrey

Not the same thing, but there was the Gate Concrete plant on south 8th street that closed 15 years ago. I believe they made precast concrete structural products for construction projects on the south end of the island. They received bulk cement and aggregate deliveries quite frequently.

1 year ago

I must agree with Nicholas that this single spill is hardly chronic exposure and we all do not need to run for the hills. With that said I hope that this is not an issue which is repeated at the port with cement or other products. The port is in too close proximity to town for these types of incidents to persist.

1 year ago

If anyone has any doubts at all about what happens as a result of cement dust, you need look no further than Ground Zero and the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund that was created to address this very issue. People died waiting years for recognition and help with treatment for the problem. We don’t need this on our doorstep – EVER!