Characterization and hazard identification of respirable cement and concrete dust from construction activities

Akshay Gharpure, James William Heim, Randy L. Vander Wal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Construction is an important segment of the economy that employs millions of people. Construction dust is an occupational health hazard to millions of construction workers worldwide. The hazards associated with respirable dust depend upon its particulate size distribution and chemical composition, as these determine the deposition pattern in the respiratory tract and reactivity, respectively. This study presents characterization of the size and composition of the dust from two key construction materials—cast cement and poured concrete. The dust was generated by cutting the cured cement and concrete blocks using an 18” hand-held circular saw as used in highway and building construction. Transmission electron microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, dynamic light scattering, and laser diffraction were performed for the size analysis of the particles. Energy dispersive spectroscopy and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy were used for chemical analysis. X-ray diffraction was used for phase identification. Electron diffraction patterns were obtained to assess the crystallinity of individual particles. They confirm the crystallinity of particles of different size and shapes. With a particle size range between 0.5 µm and 10 µm, greater than 90% of particles fell below 2.5 µm, presenting a respirable health concern. Crystalline compounds including the metals Al, Ca, Fe, Mg, Na, and K were detected. The concrete particles were most enriched in crystalline silica with a concentration of more than 30% by weight. The presence of metals and high crystalline silica content pose a serious health concern to construction workers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number10126
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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