Low-dust flours can reduce asthma risks for bakers

Breathing in traditional wheat flour dust at work is one of the main causes of baker’s asthma. This can become a disabling disease, affecting not only a baker’s health but also their ability to continue working.

Employers must therefore take action and reduce exposure to flour dust to as low a level as is reasonably practicable.

How using low-dust flour can help

If a bakery cannot use non-stick surfaces and must use flour as a lubricant to stop dough sticking to tables and conveyors, a low-dust flour can be used in sieves and dredgers and has been seen to generate less dust than normal flour when handled.

HSE testing of low-dust flour

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has carried out independent dustiness testing of two low-dust wheat flours provided by British suppliers, which were processed using different methods. One has an oil ingredient added to make it less dusty, the other has gone through a hydro-thermal refining process where the finer flour particles are removed.

The laboratory testing allowed HSE to compare their dustiness against normal wheat flour that doesn’t contain additives.

The following photos show the dust levels generated during manual sieving. The amount of dust is highlighted using a strong light beam to show that using low-dust wheat flours significantly reduces the flour dust generated.

The reductions in flour dust exposures for sieving tasks were as much as 47-86% with the low-dust flours, compared with normal flour.

Sieving normal wheat flour
Sieving flour producing dust
Sieving low-dust wheat flour
Sieving flour with minimal dust produced

These next photos show dust levels generated when tipping flour into a container or filling a dredger for automated flour dusting. There was a reduction in flour dust exposures of 67-78% when tipping low dust flours compared with tipping normal flour.

Tipping normal wheat flour
Person tipping flour into a tray, producing dust
Tipping low-dust wheat flour
Person tipping flour, minimal dust

You can see a video of this testing

Using low-dust flours will help you protect your workers

Using low dust flours will reduce airborne dust breathed in by bakers during their routine tasks of applying flour to work benches to mould dough and using sieves and dredgers. With less flour being wasted they may reduce flour usage, which means less clean-up time and effort.

Used in conjunction with careful handling techniques, low-dust flours may remove the need for wearing respiratory protective equipment (RPE) or using extraction.

These benefits will significantly help employers to comply with the law and help bakers stay healthy.

See our case study on how a bakery used low-dust flour to reduce asthma risk.

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Updated 2023-06-15