The vision of the environment as a key consideration for product development (including in dust control) has evolved remarkably over the past century. From the 1900s to date, research has shown that both global warming and carbon dioxide concentration have increased alarmingly with the turn of the millennium showing the sharpest rise in these two environmental indicators. Let us rewind the clock of time to the essence of management targets related to product development so as to grasp the key aspects of product development. Inevitably, first priority management targets have always been cost, time and quality with little or no overlap into secondary priority management targets such as the ecology. Coincidentally, as more awareness of issues related to the environment became publicly available the perception has totally shifted towards support for more sustainable product development which forced target integration as result of increasing political and public lobbying. Therefore, the interconnectedness of cost, time and quality of product development is now more driven towards how each of the priorities contributes to the ecology which brings to fore our discussion on environmentally friendly dust control solutions from a formulation, application and post life perspective. The discussion will evaluate what toxicity is, in the context of dust control giving different scenarios and case studies through highlighting relatable challenges and complete with a Global Road Technology example in GRT Enviro-Binder and GRT: Haul-Loc which offer non-toxic and environmentally friendly solutions for dust, erosion and sediment control. 

The whole of life considerations

The principle of “polluter pays” and “producer responsibility” horns the essence of integration of environmental aspects to product development in promotion the application of life-cycle thinking from conception to end of life of dust control products. Eco-design of products seeks to simulate a product’s environmental impact throughout its life cycle phases and life cycle assessment is considered as the most important methods to analyze and monitor the environmental impacts of products being utilized. Paramount to delivery of these principles is the decisions which critically rely on giving consumers the information to decide. This is core to the challenge of environmentally friendly dust control solutions as in most cases consumers are not given enough information to decide which leads to misinformed decision on choices of dust control solutions and harm to the environment and human health. Informed consumer choice is based on the encouragement of environmentally friendly dust control products in the market which is achieved through creating consumer awareness. Efforts to make consumers aware of the environmental impact of the dust and erosion control palliatives can utilize public procurement and environmental labelling as some of the solutions to increasing accessibility to information. The onus is on the producer, to improve the next generation products by developing environmentally friendly products right from the beginning for the whole life cycle which is a more holistic approach to product development. 

Are environmental regulations, health and safety concerns or potential profit loss a concern right now?

How is something defined as toxic?

By definition toxicology is the study of adverse effects of chemicals on living organisms whilst ecotoxicity is focused on the effects of a compound or mixture of compounds on multiple organisms within the entire ecosystem. The criteria of measurement of toxicity is based on different organisms such as mammals, fish and invertebrates which are subjected to different chemicals in the laboratory and the effects are extrapolated to humans. The two main assumptions that drive these experiments are that the effects produced by a compound in the laboratory are applicable to humans and exposure of experimental animals to toxic agents in high doses is a necessary and valid method of discovering possible hazards in humans. There are different toxicity tests which measure different biological responses to the chemical being tested. Acute toxicity tests determine the median lethal dose (LD50), which is the single dose of a substance that can be expected to cause death in 50% of the animals tested. The LD50 in mg/kg from dose-response curve can be directly extrapolated to humans by multiplying by 70kg which is average human bodyweight. For inhalable and respirable chemicals or through water, the median lethal dose is referred to as the median lethal concentration (LC50). The lower the LD50 or LC50 value given for a given chemical the greater the toxicity, because it takes a lower dosage to elicit an adverse biological response. 

Understanding and managing chemicals

Prior use of any chemical such as a dust suppressant or erosion control agent it important to know what the safe handling procedures are, what is the chemical potential for causing adverse biological effects in humans and animals, is it a potential carcinogen, mutagen or teratogen. Knowledge of the dust suppressants LD50 or LC50 is key and the dust suppressant’s chemical ability to bioaccumulate and persist in the environment becomes paramount in the discussion of environmentally friendly dust suppressants. The Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) is a requirement by law which serves to provide information for each chemical in use as a dust control solution. MSDS shows the exact chemical ingredients, physical and chemical characteristics, fire and explosive hazards, reactivity data, health hazard data, precautions for safe handling and use. It also can provide toxicological and sometimes ecotoxicity information about each chemical. 

What is industry best practice?

global-road-technology-environmentally-friendly-erosion-and-dust-control-solutions

To answer this question, let us start by examining bad practices, which are still commonly used even in Australia. Water absorbing salts and brine have potential impacts to freshwater fish and plants due to the accumulation, potential leaching and runoff of chloride with LD50 or LC50 values of various salts ranging from slightly toxic to non-toxic range (>500 ppm). Similarly organic non-petroleum products such as lignosulfonates have similar trends in toxicity to salts but they generally carry a high biological oxygen demand and can deplete oxygen supply to adjacent water if leaching occurs. Bitumen emulsions have LD50 or LC50 values, which range from slightly toxic (>500 mg/kg) at best to moderately toxic (50-500mg/kg) also noting that they are potentially carcinogenic owing to semi-volatile polyaromatic hydrocarbons and volatile organic compounds. 

Global Road Technology offers non-toxic and environmentally friendly product GRT Enviro-Binder a tough and durable polymer which forms matrix bonds within the soil allowing the vegetative growth to occur whilst maintaining its erosion and dust suppression properties for the long term. The benefits of GRT Enviro-Binder include long lasting retention of liquid whilst offering effective cohesion of soil particles in the process enabling a durable water-resistant surface, dust suppression by cementation of soil particles and control against moisture change. GRT: Haul-Loc is a very different product, but offers the most cost effective option to manage dust under heavy traffic such as mining trucks and earthmoving equipment. In summing up our discussion, we reiterate that the environmentally friendly and non-toxic GRT Enviro-Binder and GRT: Haul-Loc exemplifies dust, erosion and sediment control solutions that integrate environmental aspects to product development in promotion of life-cycle thinking from conception to end of life. 

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REFERENCES 

Abele, E., Anderl, R., and Birkhofer, H. 2005. Environmentally Friendly Product Development Methods and Tools. Springer Science+Business Media. USA. 

Alaska Department of Environmental Conversation. 2008. Toxicity & Dust Suppressants. 1-10. 

Bae et al. 2006. Soil desiccation rate integration into empirical dust emission models for polymer suppressant evaluation. Journal of Hazardous Materials. 132. 111-117. 

Scorgie, Y., Wright, J., and Issa, J. 2010. Rasp Mine, Broken Hill Screening Assessment of Health Risk Potentials due to Chemical Dust Suppression Agent Applications. 

Steevens et al. 2007. Environmental Evaluation of Dust Stabilizer Products. Engineer Research and Development Center- Pavements Research Program. 

McTigue et al. 2016. Research Findings: Data Collection on Toxicity of Dust Palliatives Used in Alaska. US EPA