10 unexpectedly explosive everyday materials

Research from Extraction Solutions has revealed ten unexpectedly explosive everyday materials, such as sugar and flour, due to combustible dust

Dust extraction specialists Extraction Solutions have determined the explosive power of ten common household materials using the KST deflagration index of dust, which ranges from no risk of explosion (ST 0) to a very strong risk of explosion (ST 3).

Of the materials included in the research, sugar and orange instant drink had the highest explosiveness rating, at ST 2, which signifies strong explosive potential. Powdered sugar consists of carbohydrates, making it susceptible to ignition when becoming too hot, while the highly flammable chemical limonene naturally occurs in oranges.

“Underestimating the danger of combustible dust can lead to disastrous fires that put the safety of staff members at risk,” says Extraction Solutions’

David Knight. “Even though most of these materials containing combustible dust have a weak explosive rating, they can still cause severe damage and should be taken seriously. Businesses such as warehouses and factories face higher risks of an explosion due to the quantities of material and dust involved.”

For example, in February 2021 a faulty dust collector system caused a fire in a flour mill. In 2018, a fire at a Dartford coffee roastery destroyed 200 tonnes of coffee and reportedly took firefighters an entire day to fully extinguish the blaze.

Combustible dust is classed as any fine material that has the potential to explode when suspended in the air. Three elements, known as the fire triangle, are needed to spark a fire: oxygen, combustible material as fuel and an ignition source. However, two additional factors are needed to cause a dust explosion, forming the dust pentagon. These factors concern whether the dust particles are dispersed in the necessary concentration, and whether a dust cloud is enclosed, which enables a build-up of pressure and could cause an explosion.

“If an explosion destroys products or facilities, a business will face a huge drop in productivity due to the time required to rebuild machinery,” David adds. “Fines, settlement payments or jail time could also be a risk, depending on the safety breaches and liability. Identifying the risks of the material will help you develop a suitable strategy for removing the hazards.”

Explosive household materials

1 Sugar ST 2

2 Orange instant drink ST 2

3 Flour ST 1

4 Cocoa mixture ST 1

5 Milk substitutes ST 1

6 Cinnamon ST 1

7 Rice ST 1

8 Cat food ST 1

9 Wood dust ST 1

10 Ground coffee ST 1

The KST ratings were found using the GESTIS-DUST-EX database of the Institute for Occupational Safety and Health of the German Social Accident Insurance.


Dust busters

Businesses handling or storing combustible dust must assess their premises and practices using the KST rating and implement appropriate safety measures to mitigate the risk of explosions. As well as training staff members on combustible dust hazards and forming an ignition control programme, David notes it’s important for businesses to supply equipment that will minimise risks, including dust collection systems and filters that don’t produce dust clouds.

These measures must be regularly inspected and tested, while the suitability of electrical equipment and wiring methods must be checked to ensure heated systems and surfaces are kept away from combustible dust. Also, the use of open flames and static electricity must be carefully controlled. 

See more at extractionsolutions.co.uk

Find out more about commonly explosive materials at bit.ly/Top10combustibles

Image credit | iStock



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