When you are doing any kind of home improvement project, you must consider the dangers.
There are lots of things that a homeowner could be exposed to when working in a home.
Sometimes some walls need to come down, and other times, there are simply hidden dangers behind the paint, furniture, or cabinetry.
If you are worried about breathing in plaster dust and what it can do, we have all of the information for you.
Knowing the risks before you get involved with a project will help you stay safer.
Breathing in Plaster Dust (Is It dangerous?)
Breathing in plaster dust can be dangerous.
When you are exposed to plaster dust, there are some precautions you should be taking.
The dust itself has a chemical in it called gypsum.
Gypsum is also called calcium sulfate dihydrate.
There are some things about this dust which can cause irritation for people who are using it.
If you do not prepare yourself with a mask and proper ventilation, over time, you will experience some terrible irritation.
Many people who have issues with plaster dust will cough and feel like their throat hurts.
The dust can also cause irritation to the eyes for some people.
The best way to avoid having issues with plaster dust is to wear a mask when you are working with it.
There are some other great tips to make sure you keep yourself safe from plaster dust.
We will get into those in the next sections.
What Is Gypsum?
Gypsum is one of the components in plaster dust, and it is the one which can cause the most irritation for people.
Gypsum is not hazardous to the skin.
This is one of the benefits of it and one thing that makes people often forget about the dust.
If your hands and arms feel fine dealing with this dust, you tend to forget that it could still be causing irritation by breathing it in.
The Gypsum is, however, an irritant for the eyes, nose, and mouth.
If you are a person who is working with gypsum day in and day out, chances are you could have long-term effects on your lungs.
If you happen to do a simple at-home project that causes you to breathe in a bit of gypsum dust, you may cough and feel irritated, but it would be unlikely for you to have any long-term lung issues from this one instance.
Of all of the things that you will end up breathing in and dealing with while making home improvements, plaster dust is really not the most extreme of them.
Effects of Plaster Dust on the Body
The largest effect plaster dust has on the body is itchy eyes, nose, and throat.
When you are exposed to this dust, you may feel as though you need to cough and sneeze.
This is your body’s natural way of trying to get rid of the plaster dust.
Some people who are exposed to plaster dust will have no issues at all, while others will be highly irritated by it.
Part of the problem is that plaster dust is extremely fine.
This means that you won’t even really know it is in the air, yet you will be breathing it in.
These small particles can easily fly through the air and into the airways of humans.
If you are around plaster dust every day and never protect yourself, you may start to develop a cough or even asthma.
This is easily avoided if you are wearing a proper dust mask.
Always make sure that the mask you choose to wear will be effective against plaster dust.
Some masks don’t block very small particles, and they must be able to do so in order to keep your airways and your lungs safe.
What to Do If You Are Exposed to Plaster Dust
If you are exposed to plaster dust without a mask on, you will want to get yourself to an area with fresh air as soon as possible.
Sometimes, just going outside can be a great way to clear out your throat and lungs.
Some people have had success with drinking water and also showering after working with plaster dust.
This helps to ensure that all of the dust is working its way off you and you are no longer breathing anything in.
Breathing in a bit of plaster dust is not going to be a really big problem.
If, however, you start to get a cough that won’t go away or you have a hard time breathing after your exposure, it is a good idea to see a doctor.
The doctor should be made aware of your exposure to the plaster dust, and they may be able to help you choose what is best for you.
What Can Be Done for Plaster Dust Control?
The best way to avoid breathing in plaster dust is to be very careful with how you are working with it.
If you follow certain precautions before you even have the chance to breathe in the dust, you will save yourself any irritation.
There are some things in home improvement that are difficult to avoid, and the dangers are great.
Plaster dust is not one of them.
With plaster dust, you can take a few simple steps and be almost completely protected.
1. Wear a Mask
As we have mentioned many times, your first line of defense is to wear a mask.
You should always consider wearing a mask while working on projects that would involve plaster dust.
Masks will help protect you from any of the unknowns that you can come across when working on your home.
As a homeowner, you will quickly learn that there are a lot of surprises when you take on a project.
A lot of times, a simple project can turn into a not-so-simple project within a matter of minutes.
Wearing a mask is just a good general protective measure to take.
The same can be said for safety glasses and goggles.
Remember, we mentioned that plaster dust could also be an irritant for the eyes in addition to the nose and mouth.
Wearing protection for your eyes will help make sure they do not get watery or irritated while working on your walls.
2. Sander with Vacuum
Depending on the type of project you are doing, you can look for tools that help you control dust.
Some sanders come with a vacuum attachment that will actually suck in the dust as you are sanding.
Sanding is one thing that tends to put out quite a bit of dust.
You will want to make sure you are containing the area you are working on so that you don’t get this plaster dust throughout your entire house.
If you don’t have a sander with a vacuum attachment, you can still stand by with your regular work vacuum and try and grab as much out of the air as you can.
3. Drill with Vacuum
Sometimes you need to drill holes in plaster.
A lot of times, when trying to hang a TV on a wall or doing some plumbing in a bathroom, you are going to have to drill through the plaster.
This creates a ton of dust.
The good news is that some drills also come with a vacuum attachment.
As you drill, the vacuum will pull in as much dust as possible.
This will help you to have an easier time, and it also makes it easier to complete the drilling.
The drill has an easier time when the motor is not getting filled with dust as it tries to work.
4. Saw with Vacuum
If you are cutting plaster, it is best to do it outdoors.
This way, you won’t have to worry about the dust being uncontained and causing you more irritation.
If, however, you don’t have a way to cut the plaster outside, try to get an attachment for your saw that will help you control the dust.
Many saws have a vacuum attachment which can make this process quite a bit easier and less messy.
5. HEPA Vacuum
When vacuuming up plaster dust, it is a good idea to use a HEPA vacuum.
HEPA vacuums have special filters that will allow them to suck up the tiny particles contained in plaster dust and keep them from reentering the air.
People don’t realize that, sometimes, when you vacuum particles, they are still being distributed around the room and through the air.
With a HEPA vacuum, the air quality will be significantly approved and much safer for people.
Keep this in mind when choosing which vacuum to use to control the dust.
Whatever you are working on, you can have one person stand nearby with the vacuum and take the plaster dust right out of the air.
This may seem hard to do, but it really isn’t.
The quicker you catch the plaster dust, the easier it is to contain it and to keep it under control.
The more it is left to spread around the home, the harder it will be to keep it from irritating the people in the home.
The bottom line is that, if you are going to be dealing with a lot of plaster dust on a daily basis, you need to make sure that you are prepared with the proper equipment and safety precautions.
Tips for Clearing Lungs After Inhaling Dust
Finally, we will close with a couple of great tips to help if you have inhaled some plaster dust.
Again, you can avoid this by wearing the proper personal protective equipment and limiting your exposure.
Our favorite way to get the dust out of your lungs is to take a shower.
The shower will use the steam to clear your airways and get all of the dust to move on.
Some people say that the same thing can happen for them by exercising after exposure.
Exercising gets the air moving through the airways and tends to moisten them as well.
This will move the plaster dust through faster and make things much less irritating.
You might not want to force yourself to cough, but if you are able to cough a bit, it helps you clear your lungs.
Similar to how you would clear your throat before a speech or a phone call, make sure to clear your lungs this way after inhaling dust.
This will help you move the dust out and make it a bit easier to breathe again.
Another great option is to drink some green tea.
Green tea is very healthy overall, and it helps the lungs to expand and bit and make breathing easier.
If you still don’t feel right, always contact a doctor.
Although most home improvement projects won’t be dangerous to take on, it is crucial to understand the risks and protect yourself.