Hazards Associated with Portland Cement
The manufacturing of cement is a long process and at every stage of its production, the environment is affected in one way or another. Carbon emissions, water pollution, and release of heavy metals in the air are common problems associated with manufacturing.
Fine cement dust is a major pollutant and irritant that not only affects the health of people, but also harms plants. Chronic diseases and respiratory disorders are observed in people who work in a cement industry and are exposed to the cement constituents and cement dust. The setting of cement is a long process and it is alkaline in nature, which may lead to lung and skin disorders because of the excessive heat normally released during setting and curing.
Boston Cement Factory Explosion
An explosion at a concrete plant in Boston in 2006 caused lasting problems for school bus drivers and coated a neighborhood in caustic cement dust. (Google map image of area.) The brunt of the thousands of pounds of slag dust released spewed directly into an adjacent school bus yard, contaminating a number of school buses and requiring an over-night cleanup. 61 people were admitted to area hospitals. Initial symptoms included shortness of breath and burning sensations in eyes, nose, and throat. Later fears of poisoning from beryllium in the dust raised long-term concern. The company that ran the plant was fined $20,000 in 2008 and required to install "fail-safe" explosion prevention measures.
Dust, Dust Everywhere
Although that was an extreme example, traces of dust can often be seen on the fixtures, structures, and plants surrounding a cement factory, and it certainly affects the health of nearby people. Thus it is important to maintain high safety standards in factories and cement distribution plants so that health of workers involved and neighbors (particularly children) is not affected.
Fortunately, scientists and environmental and public health researchers are gradually developing methods to curb the ill effects of cement production. Alternative methods of cement production are coming into the picture and various environment preservation acts are being put into the place to keep a check on the pollution. Cement has contributed largely to the growth of our global society, but its side effects have equally harmed our society and environment, and the need of the hour is to minimize its side effects and put its unwanted residues to proper use.