What is Combustible Dust?

Combustible dust is a topic that manages to remain on the periphery of many industrial safety and hazard conversations. Even when it is mentioned, it’s often confused with an air quality conversation. We hope that our cleaning experience can help leaders in the manufacturing and processing industries learn more about this danger so, together, we can save lives.

“Combust” is more than just a fire.

You’re probably familiar with common flammable materials (wood, paper, coal, and more). Combustible dust can come from these and hundreds of others. That’s because most organic materials, once dust-sized, have 360 degrees of surface area with microscopic diameters (420 microns or less). Their small size makes them more flammable and the potential for combustion occurs once they’re dispersed in the air.

combustible dust

Below is a combined list from OSHA and other state’s departments of labor that highlights common industrial products and materials that can create combustible dust. While extensive, the list is neither whole nor all-inclusive. Be aware that most organic or metallic materials can become combustible dust.

Agricultural Products

  • Egg white
  • Beet sugar
  • Corn starch
  • Milk (powdered, dry, nonfat)
  • Milk sugar
  • Soy flour
  • Rice (flour, starch)
  • Sugar
  • Tapioca
  • Wheat (starch, grain, flour)
  • Whey
  • Wood flour 

Agricultural Dusts

  • Alfalfa
  • Apple
  • Beet root
  • Carrageen
  • Carrot
  • Cocoa (powder, bean dust)
  • Coconut shell
  • Coffee
  • Corn meal
  • Cornstarch
  • Cotton
  • Cottonseed
  • Garlic powder
  • Gluten
  • Grass
  • Hops (malted)
  • Lemon (peel & pulp)
  • Linseed
  • Locust bean gum
  • Malt
  • Oat grain
  • Olive pellets
  • Onion powder
  • Parsley (dehydrated)
  • Peach
  • Peanut meal and skins
  • Peat
  • Potato (flour, starch)
  • Raw yucca seed
  • Rye flour
  • Semolina
  • Soybean
  • Spice
  • Sunflower
  • Tea
  • Tobacco
  • Tomato
  • Walnut
  • Xanthan gum

Carbonaceous Dusts

  • Cellulose (paper)
  • Charcoal
  • Coal
  • Coke (petroleum)
  • Cork
  • Lampblack
  • Lignite
  • Soot

Chemical Dusts

  • Adipic acid
  • Anthraquinone
  • Ascorbic acid
  • Calcium acetate
  • Calcium stearate
  • Carboxy-methylcellulose
  • Dextrin
  • Lead stearate
  • Methyl-cellulose
  • Paraformaldehyde
  • Sodium ascorbate
  • Sodium stearate
  • Sulfur
  • Zinc stearate

Metal Dusts

  • Aluminum
  • Bronze
  • Iron carbonyl
  • Magnesium
  • Zinc

Plastic Dusts

  • (poly) Acrylamide
  • (poly) Acrylonitrile
  • (poly) Ethylene
  • Epoxy resin
  • Melamine (resin, molded)
  • (poly) Methyl acrylate
  • Phenolic resin
  • (poly) Propylene
  • Terpene-phenol resin
  • Urea-formaldehyde
  • (poly) Vinyl acetate
  • (poly) Vinyl alcohol
  • (poly) Vinyl chloride


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References: The above list contains information from the OSHA Combustible Dust Poster.  

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