What is Road Dust?
Road dust is composed of pulverized loose particles of sand, rock, and other
earthen material that become air borne, mainly due to the interaction of vehicular
traffic on unpaved roads.
A study completed before the turn of the century, nearly 50 percent of America’s
public roads remained unpaved (EPA 1993), and an even larger percentage of
private roads and parking lots. Furthermore, many of these roads are located
near agriculture sites where dust can travel hundreds of feet through the air,
covering crops with debris, contaminating local streams, and causing a nuisance
to local communities.
What are the Potential Hazards of Road Dust?
- Obscures the vision of drivers, dust clouds are traffic hazards.
- Dust particulate can be carried several hundreds of feet, penetrating nearbyhomes and covering crops. Crop growth can be stunted due to the shading effectand clogged plant pores.
- In human health dust is a common cause of allergies and hay fever and aconveyor of diseases according to a United Nation study (United Nations, 1979).
- The fine dust particles can be abrasive and therefore greatly increase wear ofmoving parts of vehicles.
- The losses of fines (road binder), as dust, represent a significant material andeconomic loss (Colorado Transportation Information Center. #3, 1989).
- The fine dust particles are washed off during precipitation and carried intostreams, creeks and lakes increasing their respective turbidities.
Common Dust Abatement Practices
There are several common practices for reducing road dust. This process
is called dust abatement. Unpaved roads can be sealed with chemical dust
suppressants made out of synthetic oil based products, molasses and corrosive
rock salts like Sodium Chloride and Magnesium Chloride. It is estimated that the
chemical dust suppressant industry costs road managers $300,000,000 annually.
This is because chemicals must be manufactured, reduced to a concentrate,
shipped, diluted, and sprayed sometimes as often as 3 times per year,
The EPA recommends that unpaved roads be paved in order to reduce
road dust. TRUEGRID is a proven dust abatement technology. Our permeable
surface captures dust within loose aggregate rock that is then contained within
super tough plastic cells aligned in a grid. When heavy trucks and cars drive on
TRUEGRID, the grid system itself and not the aggregate rock provides virtually
all the load bearing capacity.What that means is that cars and trucks never fully pulverize the
aggregate rock within TRUEGRID, reducing the creation of road dust. Unpaved
roads do nothing to stop turning gravel into air-borne dust from tire traffic.
TRUEGRID stops this process and effectively minimizes dust.
In addition, a TRUEGRID lot can last up to 60+ years and proper
installation ensures virtually no maintenance after TRUEGRID is placed on the
ground. See how easy it is to install TRUEGRID.
What is the Real Danger of Chemical Dust
In 2002, the EPA released a report calling for more research into the
potential environmental and human health risks of chemical dust suppressants.
Their investigation revealed an almost complete absence of scientific studies into
the effect these chemicals have on the environment. The only studies they could
find were industry performed and focused mainly on the performance of chemical
dust suppressants and not on their effect on humans and the environment.
It is known that chemical dust suppressants have a significant negative
impact on surrounding plant life. Remember that literally tons of dust
suppressants are sprayed on the millions of square kilometers of unpaved farm
roads where food is grown. Dust suppressants can also cause runoff into water
supplies, and could potentially carry other contaminating debris into local streams
and eventually the water table.
Is the US Facing a Dust Crisis?
While a crisis might be an overstatement, we are talking about millions of
square miles of roads pouring dust into the air every day. Add in the tons of
chemicals poured on these roads to reduce the dust problem, and we now have
a problem solved with another problem.
Times Beach, Missouri was a middle class industrial town up until 1982.
Nearby manufacturing and industry plagued the small Missouri Township for
decades. In the early 70s a private contractor was hired by the city to spray a
chemical dust suppressant on the mainly unpaved roads. This went on for years
as residents complained about funny tasting water, and an increase in respiratory
diseases in the town. Eventually it was discovered that the chemicals used
contained lethal levels of dioxin, a then known neurotoxin. This quickly became a
crisis, then an emergency, then a disaster. The federal government sued the
contractor, and eventually had to evacuate and permanently close the town,
which wasn’t reopened to the public until 1999.
Currently water supplies in Flint, Michigan are at toxic levels due to
chemical runoff into local water supplies. Water supplies have been
contaminated with lead from industrial waste poisoning the drinking water of
residents. Flint, Michigan is an echo of Times Beach. Though the chemicals
involved and the mechanism of contamination are different, both municipalities
are paying a heavy price in human health, and actual dollars due to
mismanagement of chemicals in the environment.
These are not isolated incidents either. Just last year, a contractor to the
EPA contaminated the Colorado River with millions of tons of metals, and
wastewater from an abandoned gold mine. The list goes on. More than a dust
crisis, the US is facing a chemical crisis, and somehow chemicals are still being
used to control dust when there are viable and cost efficient alternatives that
involve no spraying of chemicals. Right now we have an opportunity to learn from
the past and choose a better path for Flint and for America. The eco-friendly
solution that will save lives and money is TRUEGRID.