Protecting the Environment

Effective dust control can protect the environment from dust by preventing fine materials from becoming air- or waterborne. What’s more, by helping to preserve thousands of tons of roadway gravel, dust control also reduces the environmental impact of gravel mining and transportation of gravel needed to replenish aggregate in unpaved roadways.

The effect of road dust on natural scenery and fresh air is unmistakable. But dust is also a harmful pollutant in ways that are less obvious. Dust from roadways can drift or wash into streams and other waterways, increasing sediment load and harming aquatic plants and animals. Dusty, deteriorating roads require more frequent blading to maintain safe, drivable conditions, which, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service, can increase the amount of sediment that reaches streams and other surface water.

Airborne dust can also be damaging. Crops and vegetation near unpaved roads can become coated with dust, stunting their growth due to shading effect and clogged plant pores.1

Dust is an airborne pollutant that can degrade regional air quality. According to a 1992 study cited by researchers at Colorado State University, nearly 34 percent of the particulate matter in the atmosphere in the U.S. originates from unpaved roads nationwide.1 Dust is considered a coarse particulate, 10 microns or smaller in size, and subject to the 2006 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 24-hour primary and secondary standard calling for concentrations not to exceed 150 micrograms per cubic meter of air.2 Missouri air pollution control regulations prohibit dust from private roads in commercial operations from leaving the property. Businesses must apply some form of dust control to comply with this regulation. Other state, provincial and local regulations may also apply across the U.S. and Canada.

1Road Dust Suppression: Effect on Maintenance Stability, Safety and the Environment, Phases 1-3; Jonathan Q. Addo, Thomas G. Sanders, Melanie Chenard, 2004.
2EPA National Ambient Air Quality Standards (40 CFR part 50).