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Wet wood dust is explosive

Amie Silverwood
Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Aug. 27, 2013 - Wet wood dust is as explosive as dry wood dust, a report by FPInnovations has found. The study was done for the B.C. sawmill sector after last year's deadly sawmill explosions killed four workers. The report raises questions about the usefulness of misting systems at sawmills.

"It was assumed moisture would be a bigger factor," said Darrell Wong, one of the report's authors and a manager of FPInnovations, though he said more studies must be done before sawmills should consider eliminating their misting systems. Misting has a secondary function of knocking wood dust out of the air.

Hundreds of dust samples from 18 sawmills were analyzed, with some samples sent to Chilworth Technologies, a lab in Princeton, N.J. that determines how explosive substances are. WorksafeBC confirmed that wood dust suspended in the air was the fuel source for the two explosions.

Ken Higginbotham, a spokesman for a group of ten major lumber producers who helped fund the study, was also surprised by the moisture findings. He suggested the "ideal situation" may be to use equipment to suck dust directly out of the building.

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