Dust and Fallout

Contact: Clean Air Assistance Program, 800-662-9278
Agency: Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy

Picture of man in dust storm.

Michigan defines fugitive dust under R 336.1106(k) of the Michigan Air Pollution Control Rules as "particulate matter which can originate from indoor or outdoor industrial or commercial processes, activities, or operations and is emitted into the outer air through building openings and general exhaust ventilation." Dust is also characterized as "fugitive" when it originates from unintended activities such as soil disturbances by wind or from human activities such as walking or driving through an unpaved parking lot. Emissions that are discharged from building stacks are not defined as fugitive dust, nor is fugitive dust considered to be a by-product of open burning activities.

Fugitive dust particles are comprised mainly of soil minerals (i.e. oxides of silicon, aluminum, calcium, and iron), but can also consist of sea salt, pollen, spores, etc. The most common regulated forms of particulate matter are known as PM10 (particulate matter with a diameter of 10 microns or less in size) and PM2.5 (particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 microns or less in size). PM10 consists of contents such as soil, and are generally larger and less harmful than PM2.5 which is manifested in pollutant gases through physical changes or chemical reactions. Although most fugitive dust particles are larger than 10 microns in size (comparatively, the average human hair is 70 microns in diameter), all have the ability to settle quickly on the ground or adversely affect human health or the environment.

What types of activities generate fugitive dust? All activities have the potential to generate fugitive dust, although frequent and high levels of dust particles often originate from activities in the following industrial sectors: agricultural, mining, construction, manufacturing, transportation and utilities, wholesale/retail trade, and service.

>Any level of dust generation is considered air pollution. For example, excessive dust can cause damage to plant vegetation and reduce crop and livestock yields through contamination by its chemical composition. Wind generation of dust particles can cause the erosion of valuable topsoil and contribute to the soiling and discoloration of personal property, requiring monetary costs for repeated cleanup activities. Constant soiling can lead to adverse effects on property and land values in areas where fugitive dust generation is a known problem.

Like any air pollution problem, fugitive dust can also be a health nuisance. The smallest particles (2.5 microns or less in diameter) can easily be inhaled and travel to the deepest parts of the lungs, causing nose and throat irritation; respiratory illnesses, such as bronchitis, lung damage, and asthma; and even premature death in sensitive individuals. Generation of fugitive dust can also reduce visibility (i.e., haze) enough to cause moving vehicle or work site equipment accidents that can result in serious injury or death.

Excessive generation of dust and fallout is monitored by each Air Quality Division District Office of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy.

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