Return to the Old House Forum | Post a Follow-Up

 o
What is this 'dust'? On me, in sinus, lungs?

Posted by ks_toolgirl (My Page) on
Mon, Nov 8, 10 at 2:04

Hi, all. I've "lurked" but not posted for a while. I guess many of you would understand - with my old house, suddenly I discovered many hidden problems, all at once, & all major! (When it's BAD stuff, I shut down & let my mind mull things over for a while...) I'll leave most of it for another post, & golly there's a LOT! However...
Tonight I've been upstairs trying to clean out the void between the knee-wall and roof. (My 2 "man-cubs" are away @ grandmas, I've delayed this until they were out of the house). "The Mr" found a roof leak & TERMITES there several years ago. (No "DH" right now, I'm too grouchy for the "dear" bit! Lol). He "fixed" the leak back then, & applied a generous dose of... Um... "Very effective termite killing stuff". (We'll leave it at that, shall we? Lol).
The point - I'll skip the "why I have to tackle this NOW!!" part, as this is too long already - is this:
There's such a thick layer of very fine "dust" in there, on & under old insulation. I'm covered with it, inside AND out! Came upon this situation before when hubby cut part of upstairs ceiling out for "whole house fan" install. A downdraft hit just then & sucked this weird powder down the stairs & sprinkled it over everything to the front door. Grr! (Had an upside, btw!).
So, what IS this stuff? I haven't found any info - except some Australian sites - is it just "dust"? Perhaps disintegrated plaster?
I'm coughing up (a tiny bit of) the dark stuff, (sorry - I know that's icky to hear!), not to mention my nose, & sinuses!! (Sorry - more yuck..). Any advice? My boys are supposed to come home in the morning, but other grandma (my mom) has offered to keep them for me for the day.
So... What IS it? Why doesn't anyone talk about it? Am I the only one that has this? Is it hazardous to my boys?
Thanks - sorry so lengthy. :-)


Follow-Up Postings:

 o
RE: What is this 'dust'? On me, in sinus, lungs?

I think I know what you're talking about..but is it whitish..prbably plaster dust I would think that stuff flies everywhere. I know when I rip out the plster and lathe basement cieling the most hideous black stuff comes out that makes my sinuses go nuts..I am assuming that this is bazillions of old mold spores(my house is 105 years old) I just vaccum sweep mop and run an air purifier to get rid of it ( yes I vaccum between the joists that make up the first floor floor..gotta get in there while you can.


 o
RE: What is this 'dust'? On me, in sinus, lungs?

I hope you are using at least N95 filters and HEPA vacuums. Damp removal is best as it keeps the particles on the surface, not in the air. The black dust could easily be coal dust. Most pre-1950s homes were at one time heated with coal.

None of this dust is a laughing matter. Try telling that to a "20 something" who just knows he'll never become that wheezing 50-year old!


 o
RE: What is this 'dust'? On me, in sinus, lungs?

The black dust is probably coal dust and any old house who has had an octopus in the cellar, or coal burning grates or cookstoves will seep old coal dust, soot and ash whenever the seal is compromised around windowsills, or any part of the plaster. It may also be soot from chimneys if you have hearths or even covered over fireplaces.

The white dust may indeed be plaster dust. The plaster is held to the walls on the inside by 'keys' or bulges of plaster where it's pushed through the lathe strips. Broken keys happen and when they break, they fall.

I have brick dust in my house from the ancient, soft two hundred year old bricks, and also from the limestone rocks of the foundation. It's most in the cellar, and it's one reason I chose, when we got central heat) to go with a boiler and radiators because it sheds continually and I don't want a force-air furnace distributing it upstairs.

It could be disintegrated paper or mineral insulation. It could be wood dust from powder post beatles.

I once read an article on what comprises house dust and had to laugh at the naive supposedly scientific source's answers. They mentioned skin cells and animal dander. Ha........in a brand new house it might be, but in an old house it could be just about ANYTHING.


 o
RE: What is this 'dust'? On me, in sinus, lungs?

Thanks, everyone, for the responses! This stuff is more of a light grey/brown, like the thick base layer of plaster I guess. There IS a lot of broken plaster up there. This stuff is so powdery/fine & lightweight that it's everywhere now. Seems like it to me, anyway. I haven't been NEAR that project today, & I swear I keep tasting it in my mouth! (Ew - it's kinda "gritty", forgot to mention that. Uck!).
Now my man-cubs are home (ages 3 & 11) & I'm concerned about what they're breathing. It can't be healthy - I'm stuck without a car seat today so I can't take them anywhere. The room under this attic/void space is the bathroom - w/a crappy dropped ceiling, with acoustic panels. I'm sure that's where a lot of the "devil-dust" (yeah, that I stirred up) is coming from. All I can think to do @ this point is cover part of ceiling w/plastic sheeting. Just when I think this place is as "ghetto as it can get-o", right? Lol. The "whole house fan" is @ the top of the stairs, directly outside the door to the upstairs bath w/the access hole to the area I was working in... I could kick it on high & suck that crap out (the airborn stuff anyway), or would that just stir things up and make it worse?
Sorry this is so long - I just don't know which way to go from here. (I can't work on it w/kids here, I do know that, so clearing it out is suspended till tomorrow & Wednesday).


 o
RE: What is this 'dust'? On me, in sinus, lungs?

DH doesn't always have to mean "dear husband." Sometimes I'm thinking of another word that begins with D. LOL!
Pat


 o
RE: What is this 'dust'? On me, in sinus, lungs?

How old is your house? Any idea when it was built?
When you post on the OLD HOUSE forum, it makes me think about homes a minimum of 50 years old, but your thoughts may be different.

We have worked on various projects in our midcentury house which has plaster and stucco. The dust from this caused me agony from eye irritations to skin rashes. And my two dogs lost a lot of hair and had skin infections. Also, my sinuses ended up infected and bleeding. Of course, I'm no spring chicken with little children.

By all means, get yourself a mask to wear, and goggles, and what Worthy recommended too. Next time you take your kids to the pediatrician, make sure to check their lead levels and respiration. Dust can be a big pain if nothing else.


 o
RE: What is this 'dust'? On me, in sinus, lungs?

Moccasinlanding, yep. She's an old girl. The "inspectors report" said, I think - haven't looked at it for a while, around 1937. Back when I had time for researching I'd gotten back to 1912. Don't know the style, that drives me crazy! 1 1/2 story, symmetrical cross gables w/a 1:1 pitch. Very simple, inset corner porch w/round columns. She doesn't fit into any category - but I love her (hate her/love her/hate her - lol!). She's always been white w/dark roof. (B&W photo of church abt 1915 shows her in distant background, too cool!).
Lol - are you calling me a chicken? ;-). Well I'm NOT, "spring" or any other kind. (Got a late start on the kiddo's). :-)
Yes, all work is suspended until I get a good mask, etc, & kids'll be gone for @ least 2 days - if not more, so I can be certain it's safe.
Sigh... Yet another project "on hold" & unfinished. :-(


 o
RE: What is this 'dust'? On me, in sinus, lungs?

Well, I had a similar problem after I'd spent weeks doing a renovation on my living room. New floor, plaster work and painting, new curtains, the whole nine-yards. I am sitting on my day bed and hear a noise and some bricks in the chimney of that fireplace had let loose and fallen into the firebox, taking two hundred years of crap with them. A black cloud rose and covered the whole room, and seeped into the dining room and it was so bizarre I just sat and looked at it.

Of course when the dust settled, literally, I had to start the clean up. I had an old schnauzer who immediately wanted to walk through it repeatedly. No, I did not vacuum because I was afraid of sucking it up one end and out the other. I gently swept, and used buckets of hot, soapy water and washed everything repeatedly and all fabrics had to come down and be laundered, and walls washed. IOW, water is your best friend, to keep the dust down. And, rubber gloves.


 o
RE: What is this 'dust'? On me, in sinus, lungs?

Lol, Pat! Hmm.. "D"lightful? :-)
The other night DH said the next house he buys will be a concrete slab with a MORTON building on it!
I calmly looked him in the eye and said "that sounds nice, dear. I'm sure the kids will enjoy that when they visit you on weekends".
Then we both burst into laughter. :-)


 o
RE: What is this 'dust'? On me, in sinus, lungs?

"I hope you are using at least N95 filters..."

N95 is pretty useless and mostly for appearance.

99 and 100 masks are under $15 for disposables and provide some actual protection.


 o
RE: What is this 'dust'? On me, in sinus, lungs?

I asked the director of safety (now called risk management in some quarters) at a university what he recommended for people who actually care about keeping foreign matter out of their lungs. He suggested the model below, and emphasized buying it in person if you are not sure which size you take.

There are various types of cartridges available, including charcoal ones for organic vapors.

Here is a link that might be useful: North 7700 Series Silicone Half Mask Respirators 770030


 o
RE: What is this 'dust'? On me, in sinus, lungs?

That's what I keep for safety around chemicals for my g'houses. They're not that uncomfortable, either if you keep the cartridges changed when you should.


 o
RE: What is this 'dust'? On me, in sinus, lungs?

Calliope; your chimney dust description sounds like our whole-house-fan fiasco! It was worse here, tho'... DH cut a 3' square out of the ceiling & got the shock of finding out how much crap was up there! It was spring & all windows were open so to make matters worse, as he slowly lowered the cut-out a HUGE breeze gusted through! I totally know the black cloud you mentioned - (as well as the "frozen staring in shock" feeling, lol!) My cloud came down the stairs, around 2 corners - through the last 2 rooms still carpeted (naturally). 2 of us in dazed shock, him @ top of stairs & me at the bottom. (Due to 90 degree bend in stairway I couldn't see him - but I sure heard his "Holy $*@#"!). That's when I started wondering & trying to find out what the dusty stuff was in the 1st place. Upshot was DH finally (had to) let me rip up the berber carpeting the flippers had put on the stairs! :-)
Btw, it took me awhile to figure out "g'house" meant green! Lol - in this forum all I could think of was "geriatric", which makes sense also, right? :-)


 o
RE: What is this 'dust'? On me, in sinus, lungs?

Thanks, Brickeyee - no more work up there till I get a mask, N100 & no less.
The goggles sound like a good idea too - thanks everyone!
Inox & Calliope - you had me sold right up till "change filter cartridges regularly"... Lol, not my forte! I'd forget to change the kirby bag - DH does it, otherwise the bag would eventually explode. ;-)


 o
RE: What is this 'dust'? On me, in sinus, lungs?

"asked the director of safety (now called risk management in some quarters) at a university what he recommended for people who actually care about keeping foreign matter out of their lungs. "

What he really cares about is not getting sued, especially over safety gear.

A half mask is a little overkill for non-toxic dust (and they are very uncomfortable to wear).


 o
RE: What is this 'dust'? On me, in sinus, lungs?

KS-toolgirl sez:"...Btw, it took me awhile to figure out "g'house" meant green! Lol - in this forum all I could think of was "geriatric", which makes sense also, right? :-)"

Ahhh, yep...for more reasons than one, but not every PERSON on here is geriatric to the same degree. Some, like moi, are more than others.... it is good policy never to ask a woman's weight or her age. :)


 o
RE: What is this 'dust'? On me, in sinus, lungs?

Coal dust is an interesting postulation, we have black dust too and I always thought it was just the cellulose fibre insulation deteriorating. But that's probably right. Every piece of overhead moulding I take off generates a shower of black dust. I don't treat it as too toxic because I am pretty sure it does not contain asbestos. And when you wet this stuff, it leaves black streaks... so working wet is not a really useful option.

So I vacuum, and in that department I have one word for you: Miele. We spent an obscene amount to buy one when we were fighting bedbugs last year and it struck me that the 20 y-o Hoover was likely just redistributing the eggs through the room (probably wasn't, but it also wasn't generating much suction any more). The Miele is our "nice" vacuum but it is my go-to for dirty jobs because the outgoing air is CLEAN. I have a love-hate with the machine because it is ergonomically annoying and the attachments are poorly designed, but from a functional standpoint, I TRUST it. Of course, the outgoing air, no matter how clean, still stirs up a ruckus, but if you can keep the business end sucking up without letting the outflow blow it around more (ie start at a door and work INTO an area with the vacuum behind you), you can process your way through the house.

With kids, I would be fairly careful. Curtains between rooms, let the dust settle before they're in the area, and so on.

KarinL


 o
RE: What is this 'dust'? On me, in sinus, lungs?

Lead & other dangers to kids, I'm paranoid about, & have had the doc do checks before - was relieved when they came back "just fine", although it's been awhile. I'll revisit that again, soon. (So please don't panic, all, I don't dry-sand or use heat gun inside, for a LONG time, now). All of the attic work is STOPPED & that bathroom door locked, until kids are away long enough for my peace of mind.
Also - one look at that facemask & I KNEW I'd have to lock it in the gun safe, or search my sons room whenever I wanted to use it, ("Luke.. I am your fah-thah"). OTOH, I could buy it "for him" for christmas toy present, & borrow it occasionally... ;-)
No no, Moccasinlanding! I wasn't referring to PEOPLE! Calliope said her "g'house" - I meant "geriatric house", only, since its "old house forum! Yikes... :-)

Sara


 o
RE: What is this 'dust'? On me, in sinus, lungs?

brickeye,

When I asked the director of safety at the university to recommend a respirator, I specifically asked him what he would choose for his own use if cost were not a consideration. I have know this man for over fifteen years and do not appreciate your ridiculous assertion about his character, which is based on nothing whatsoever.

The Norton respirator I mentioned is not uncomfortable to me. I have spent at least 300 hours using it and its predecessors since the original design was made my Norton in the early 1980s.


 o
RE: What is this 'dust'? On me, in sinus, lungs?

"When I asked the director of safety at the university to recommend a respirator, I specifically asked him what he would choose for his own use if cost were not a consideration. I have know this man for over fifteen years and do not appreciate your ridiculous assertion about his character, which is based on nothing whatsoever. "

It is solidly based on what you described his occupation as "director of safety at the university."

His entire job is to protect the University against lawsuits.
Period.


 o
RE: What is this 'dust'? On me, in sinus, lungs?

Brickeye.......at this point we don't know what is in the dust. So, how can we say a half-mask is overkill if the dust isn't toxic.

G'house is greenhouse and I wear the mask for something as innocuous as oil sprays and they're not at all poisonous. But a fine mist of oil will gladly travel to your lungs and give you a fine case of aspiration pneumonia.

You do not know if there is asbestos in the dust. You do not know if there are mold spores. You do not know if there are dry lead particles. You do not know if you're sucking in fiberglass spikes. Bed bug or flea poop, other minute protozoae. Even coal dust or plaster dust, though it won't drop you over immediately has a way of being not so nice over a period of time. I have worked in a pottery and also a ceramic lab where we used dust sprays to check for crazing on porcelain finishes. There are a lot of ex-pottery workers who have silicosis.

You will change the mask if you want to breathe. The dust will clog the cartridges and slowly diminish the available air and that isn't comfortable.


 o
RE: What is this 'dust'? On me, in sinus, lungs?

brickeye,

You know nothing about this man. Please stop impugning his advice, which I have always found to be unbiased.


 o
RE: What is this 'dust'? On me, in sinus, lungs?

KS- If you're worried (and you have insurance) get yourself to the doctor. I would also try to take a little of the dust and have someone analyze it for you. This is nothing to take lightly, even for yourself, let alone two small children.

There are many scary things (and some not so scary) that make up old houses. Don't assume it's not a big deal. If you're "little voice" is giving you enough concern to ask us, go ask your doctor!

That being said, let us know what happens and I'm hoping it's nothing serious! :)


 o
RE: What is this 'dust'? On me, in sinus, lungs?

"You know nothing about this man. Please stop impugning his advice, which I have always found to be unbiased."

Just how is saying his job is to protect the university from lawsuits "impugning his advice"?

THAT IS HIS JOB.

As such, he will ALWAYS err on the side of caution, and every single 'safety' person I have ever met has always gone overboard.

The consequences of not going far enough can be VERY expensive for an employer.

The 100% disposable masks work very well when put on correctly, and have a much larger filter area than the cartridge masks.

They are easier to breath in (less air resistance) and have very good exhale valves.
This prevents water vapor in your breath from saturating the filter media and making the wearer hot (the water vapor in the air you breath out carries a lot of heat with it).


 o
RE: What is this 'dust'? On me, in sinus, lungs?

I have already explained to you that I was not asking the safety director what he would recommend in his official capacity, but what he would use himself if cost were not an option.


 o
RE: What is this 'dust'? On me, in sinus, lungs?

Brickeyee & Inox: you're both right! Inox, that is your friend's job description - nothing personal seemed intended. You have to admit, your initial response didn't address him as a friend of yours that happened to hold this position. (It sounded like you called the university & asked a stranger). Brickeyee's response was to that situation, I think, which is logical.
However, knowing now that he's a friend of yours, his answer gets more validation than that of someone protecting their employer & their own job! :-)
The $30 price seems surprisingly reasonable, even w/the additional filter/cartridge cost. I intend to buy it soon, AND use Brickeyee's mask alternative for current project.

To the other concerns about childrens safety... Here it is, (I didn't want to "go here").
My oldest son is a "special needs" child & is homeschooled for that reason. For same reason, has frequent check-ups, where I keep his Dr. up-to-date on house situation & projects. (In the form of "conversation", but we both know its to keep him current on any issues both kids may need tested for. Dr asks "so, what are you working on these days", & I tell him, we discuss potential issues). So, sincerely, I have that covered! Ok? :-). It's just, when you mention "homeschooling" or "special needs", people start acting differently. I've been there, & wanted to avoid it here - just be an owner of an old house and a mom. :-)

SL


 o
RE: What is this 'dust'? On me, in sinus, lungs?

I'm sorry you've had that experience, but I'm relieved to know you're talking to your doctor! I think it's wonderful that you homeschool your son :)

As for "special needs" kids, it's too bad if some people haven't figured this out, but some of the sweetest kids I've ever known, are special needs kids.

Years ago, my 'then' boyfriend and I made a short docu/film, following a young man, throughout his day, including his job at a pizza place. He was so proud of all his accomplishments and was one of the truly sweetest souls I've ever met. The film was used (I believe) to help raise money for the non-profit art center, which was open to special needs kids/young adults, in eastern Montana.

Now, back to your house...I'm glad you're going to wear your mask...and on with the renovations! :)


 o
RE: What is this 'dust'? On me, in sinus, lungs?

Funny thought... This morning as I was picking up cheerios off the carpet, (again!), I noticed some had been stepped-on before I got to them (again). I thought to myself that in the unlikely event that that carpet is still there in 20 years - perhaps a future owner will pull it up & post this same question! "What is this layer of pale tan colored DUST under carpet & only in the living room??".
2 kids-worth of runaway cheerios! (Imagine sending that sample to a lab!). :-)
(And yes, I DO vacuum, but not every 30 minutes, lol).


 o Post a Follow-Up

Please Note: Only registered members are able to post messages to this forum.

    If you are a member, please log in.

    If you aren't yet a member, join now!


Return to the Old House Forum

Information about Posting

  • You must be logged in to post a message. Once you are logged in, a posting window will appear at the bottom of the messages. If you are not a member, please register for an account.
  • Please review our Rules of Play before posting.
  • Posting is a two-step process. Once you have composed your message, you will be taken to the preview page. You will then have a chance to review your post, make changes and upload photos.
  • After posting your message, you may need to refresh the forum page in order to see it.
  • Before posting copyrighted material, please read about Copyright and Fair Use.
  • We have a strict no-advertising policy!
  • If you would like to practice posting or uploading photos, please visit our Test forum.
  • If you need assistance, please Contact Us and we will be happy to help.


Learn more about in-text links on this page here