In February 1999, an explosion in a foundry in Massachusetts killed three and injured nine. Almost four years later in January 2003, an explosion in a North Carolina pharmaceutical plant killed six and injured 38. A month later, seven are killed in an explosion in a Kentucky acoustics insulation manufacturing plant and 37 more are injured; and in February 2008, an explosion at a Georgia sugar refinery left 14 dead, and 38 injured.

What do all of these explosions have in common? Combustible dust fueled the massive explosions. Since 1980 there have been at least 350 such explosions in the United States, killing 133 people and injuring hundreds more. How much dust does it take to cause one of these explosions? According to NFPA 654, “As little as 1/32 of an inch of organic dust over 5 percent of a room’s surface area presents a significant explosion hazard.” That’s as thin as a paperclip.