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Among the eight most plentiful elements in the earth’s crust, aluminum happens to be the third, making up about 8.1 percent of the crust's weight. Desired for its strength and lightness, aluminum is used extensively for construction, especially aircraft. However, you must take great precaution when working with aluminum. The simple activity of sanding aluminum can pose many dangers to your life and health.
The peril of working with aluminum includes the risk of explosions and fires. Sanding aluminum can create oxide dust or a combustible dust cloud that can explode if overheated. For example, a metal worker using a dry dust collector can suffer serious injury while sanding aluminum parts if the collector's steel blower explodes on the dirty side of its filter.
Combustible dust clouds are difficult to put out with water. Water only fuels the fire, resulting in flammable hydrogen gas. Usually, a dry powder called a Class D extinguishing agent is used to smother combustible dust cloud fires.
Not only can sanding aluminum result in physical injury, the activity can wreak havoc on your health. The toxicity resulting from sanding aluminum can result in headaches, memory defects, mental confusion, colic, loss of coordination, disorientation and learning difficulty. According to some scientists, these effects may also lead to depression and digestive problems, as well as to Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.
The immediate effects of acute toxicity resulting from sanding aluminum are easily recognized. Sudden nausea, severe cramping, vomiting, headaches, sweating and difficulty breathing are all symptoms of having been exposed to aluminum toxicity. Seek a medical doctor immediately to avoid a worsening condition.
For the sake of safety, individuals sanding aluminum should wear safety goggles as well as a safety mask to prevent the inhalation of toxins. Protective gloves should also be worn to keep hands from becoming contaminated as well. However, do not sand aluminum if you already experiencing health problems, especially heart issues. Inhaling aluminum toxins can result in a life-or-death event.
Steve Glenn is a member of the Loft Writing Center in Minneapolis and has been writing professionally for over six years. He has written various newsletters and has published articles in the "Milwaukee Community Journal." Glenn holds a Bachelor of Science degree in English and education from Metro State University in St. Paul.