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Malt dust- how hazardous is it?

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  • Malt dust- how hazardous is it?

    I was asked by a co-worker who is complaining about the dust created by the mill. How could it affect our health, other than the nose full of buggers?

    Should it require a dust mask?

    Thanks for your help

  • #2
    I'm thinkin' it's required by OSHA and common sense!



    • #3
      I'm guessing OSHA doesn't apply in the U.K...

      Previously I worked in a brewery that used a hand-made mill that created massive amounts of dust. Even though it was in an open warehouse, I ended up getting what I call 'white lung' which was a persistent dry cough and general throat irritation. If the mill is in an enclosed space with no ventilation, a dust mask is highly recommended.


      • #4
        Absolutely wear a dust mask and goggles (that stuff irritates the eyes too!).

        Cheers, Tim


        • #5
          thanks for the answers, As you can see OSHA isnt at play here but European health codes for work places are very high standards... We dont have to stand in the milling area because its all automated, but we have to add the specialty malts by the bag, as well as the dust that has settled after the milling. Its durring cleaning that the dust gets lifted.

          I'll simply have a nice dust mask available to avoid the dust in the lungs...

          White lung huh... My fathers family were all coal minners from WV, and many had Black lung...


          • #6
            be careful of that stuff man!

            as well as inhaling dust not being good for you full stop, you can risk getting an Aspergillus infection! aspergillus is a mould that can sometimes grow on malt, and... well you don't want a mould infection in your lungs. it can make you really ill, not just a cough!

            secondly, dust in the right conditions can be highly explosive. if heated/exposed to flames/sparks, you could have a nasty situation at hand.

            can't really answer your question with any more depth than that, but it's common sense and observation - no fancy graphs and equations from me
            Head Brewer - TDM 1874 Brewery.
            Yokohama, Japan.


            • #7
              Dust Particals

              It should be a requirement to wear protective gear. All small particals that are breathed in can be harmful. The most important thing is to avoid breathing in malt dust, and second is to take the appropriate measures to avoid a malt dust explosion. If you have a dust cloud in an in closed area, you have two of the three things required for devistating explosion. The three things are malt dust, oxygen, and an ignition source.

              Graydon Brown


              • #8
                The only thing that makes me cough more then malt dust is Perlite.
                Joel Halbleib
                Partner / Zymurgist
                Hive and Barrel Meadery
                6302 Old La Grange Rd
                Crestwood, KY


                • #9
                  Rather than stating the obvious, I'll tell you my story.

                  My grandfather worked for a maltster for most of his life. He was around the dry malt quite often, but never with a dust mask. Safety wasn't exactly a concern then.

                  In his later years, you could fit a 22 oz. bomber between his pecs from where his chest had sunken in so bad while struggling to get a breath.

                  For the two seconds it takes to don the mask, do it.


                  • #10
                    Silo filler's disease

                    SFD is actually listed with the CDC. I used to work for a brewery that received weekly malt deliveries. The truck driver that pumped the malt into the silo’s, used to complain about cold he could never shake. Needless to say he was looking a little cadaverous after a few weeks.
                    Brewers enjoy working to make beer as much as drinking beer instead of working. -Harold Rudolph


                    • #11
                      Maybe it is the cart before the horse, but any efforts to lessen the amount of dust escaping the mill would do wonders to your lungs after you take the dust mask off, plus all the microbial contamination from malt dust, not to mention how many fax machines I have lost due to malt dust, or just the extra cleaning necessary to deal with dust everywhere. McMaster has a nice selection of dust collection equipment if you cannot eliminate the source.


                      • #12
                        Hey Mike -

                        I guess you're getting the mask answer loud & clear so I won't belabor that. You might also consider putting an exhaust fan in the outside wall which could help clear some of the dust befoe it settles. Having helped clean out your grain room (at Chris' prompting) it would make clean up a little easier also.

                        We're not manic with safety procedures but we always run our vent fan and wear dust masks when milling. Even if it wasn't dangerous, who wants white boogers?

                        So when you coming down here for a little Israeli hospitality?



                        • #13
                          Malt Dust

                          There have been some excellent answers thus far so I won't bother to comment too much on the deleterious health effects of inhaling malt dust. Other than to endorce taking all reasonable efforts to reduce dust production and accumulation, and to reduce inhallation by wearing a dust mask at least. A $30 (not sure how many pounds sterling that is these days) 3M respirator with the proper cartridges installed is much better than the disposable paper dust masks.

                          I'm not sure if I've seen anybody in the indsustry over here use one or not but you can purchase dust collectors for a few hundred dollars that would help out quite a bit. They are primarily designed for the woodworking industry. They consist of a blower (1-2 hp) and a large dust bag/sock, much like the kind you connnect to the outlet of your silo when filling pneumatically.
                          If you want to see what they look like you can check on in the tool section.

                          What I will add is that malt dust is also a fantastic source of microbes if you wish to infect your beer. Lactobacillus being a major culprit here. So there are other reasons in addition to the very real health issues that necessitate good dust control and general housekeeping in the brewery.


                          • #14
                            Great topic for discussion. I am in the process of installing a dust removal system at our new facility. I have a lab hood (5 feet wide and 3 feet deep) installed in the ceiling above the malt mill. It has two 8 inch ducts out the top. These ducts combine into a 10 inch duct which is connected to a blower/vacuum which is vented out the roof via a 10 inch duct. I will be hanging plastic strips (the ones used in walk in cooler doors) from the hood to the floor, "enclosing" the mill. We will still be able to easily add specialty grains into the mill as needed through the plastic slotted curtain. The bulk malt is augered in from the silo. In the wall behind the mill I am installing a through wall vent to allow clean air from the brewery to be pulled in behind and below the mill and be sucked up through the hood carrying the dust upward. The hood vents will have a removable filter screens which can be cleaned or disposed of as needed.


                            • #15
                              I have used a fair amount of duct tape to take care of gaps in the mill hardware where dust escapes. Currently most of my dust escapes at the outlet of the mill, and until I get some metal work done to alleviate that, I found draping a towel or apron around the transition to the mash tun eliminates the dust particles escaping into the air. I no longer need to use my McMaster-Carr sheetrock dust collector that used to perfectly suck from that spot and prevented dust getting into the atmosphere. Years ago I vented it outside with a fan, which only made a black mold/bacteria mess where the fan exhaust hit a wall outside.