Professionals in pharmaceutical quality control have a tremendous amount of responsibility on their shoulders. Tasked with monitoring the safety and efficacy of every aspect of the manufacturing and testing processes, they must leave no stone unturned to ensure that the products their employers produce pose no dangers to either their colleagues or the general public.
One particularly important and potentially hazardous risk you may encounter in this role is pharmaceutical dust. A natural occurrence during the manufacturing of many drugs, this substance can often go unseen, but could have huge consequences for both worker safety and product quality.
If you’re considering a career in quality control, read on to learn more about pharmaceutical dust, and how you can help mitigate the risks it poses.
What Causes Pharmaceutical Dust?
Pharmaceutical dust is made up of hazardous particles that can collect during various stages of the drug manufacturing process, such as the grinding, milling, mixing, pressing and coating of tablets. It can also accumulate during the cleaning of equipment, as well as the packing and unpacking of materials.
Pharmaceutical dust can contain any number of potentially hazardous materials, including chemicals, hormones and combustible ingredients. It is ultrafine and can escape easily into the air, making it very difficult for pharmaceutical facilities to monitor.
The Potential Risks of Dust in Pharmaceutical Workplaces
One of the principle risks of pharmaceutical dust is cross-contamination. Where a pharmaceutical product comes into contact with dust containing other ingredients, its quality and safety can be severely affected, and entire shipments can potentially be rendered unfit for public consumption due to improper dust control.
Graduates of quality control courses will also find that dust can pose a significant risk to the health and safety of employees at pharmaceutical facilities. Breathing in harmful substances can put workers at risk of developing respiratory illnesses, skin conditions and other medical issues. Certain pharmaceutical ingredients, such as dextrin and corn starch, could also cause explosions when they come into contact with other substances.
How Professionals with Quality Control Training Guard Against Dust
During your quality control training, you will become well-versed in the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and regulations that are designed to prevent the spread of pharmaceutical dust. Precautions can include attaching dust collectors to machines which are likely to accumulate large quantities of dust particles, such as tablet presses. All of these systems should be inspected regularly to ensure that there are no issues such as leaks or dents which could lead to dust escaping.
Many facilities will also fit explosion vents to machines for additional safety, and use secondary high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration systems to trap any stray dust particles in the atmosphere. Steps should also be taken to ensure that employees who are at risk of coming into contact with dust wear proper protective clothing, including dust masks and goggles where appropriate.
Above all, quality control professionals should monitor their processes and procedures regularly to make sure they are being carried out correctly, and perform periodic air sampling to ensure that the air in the facility is below workplace exposure limits.
Want to help ensure the safe manufacturing of pharmaceutical products?
Contact Toronto Institute of Pharmaceutical Technology to learn more about our pharmaceutical courses.