While some St. Charles Parish residents complain about the impact of grain dust on their property, like houses, cars and lawns, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is equally concerned about the health impacts of workers exposed to the grain dust on a regular basis.
In 1983, OSHA, while gathering information to conduct a study of the impact of the dust on workers at facilities all over the country, said that "the issue is complicated by the fact that ‘grain dust’ is not a single, definable entity, but rather a heterogeneous mixture of components such as various types of grain, pesticide residues, and insect parts.”
OSHA also found that the mixture varies from batch to batch, so workers are always exposed to different "grain dusts."
What mechanisms are available to rid communities of grain dust?
Some are complaining about the possibility of a water or pneumatic system being installed to get rid of the dust. According to an Environmental Protection Agency report released to the U.S. Senate concerning the removal of grain dust in 1993, “a water system removes only a small proportion of the total dust in the grain mass and once removed it is often returned before the grain is shipped. The addition of even small quantities of water to grain is usually considered detrimental to the quality since it increases average moisture content."
At this point, no one is sure what might work best to help reduce the dust from the grain plants, or how soon relief will be in sight for residents living around the plants. But it is imperative that we put the search for solutions on the fast track to benefit not only the cleanliness of our parish but also to protect the health of workers at those elevators.