If blowing in the wind is the answer, then dust, dirt and debris is the question, obviously.
It is what you see inside the home, the matter that collects on and adheres to electronic/electric appliances, inside motor vehicles, just about anywhere one can imagine. It is the reason why I believe vacuum cleaners were invented. Other kinds of dust can be from woodworking and machining operations such as in sawing, sanding, grinding, planing or resurfacing, routing, you name it. The trick is to keep levels of dust in the air down, to minimize exposure or to completely avoid breathing the stuff in. Sometimes it is unavoidable; it is just a part of life. It has even been the subject of song as in the case of “Dust in the Wind,” a composition from the musical group Kansas. There was even a bowl named for dust and it lasted for years. This was, of course, way before I was born and I hope the Earth never experiences anything like this again – ever! Dust.
Now some may argue the kind of dust that was present and prevalent during the Dust Bowl years, was not really dust at all, rather blowing dirt. Just this morning, in fact, my neighbors were having their lawn mowed and even while the mowing operation was going on, a second yard-grooming person face-masked (he wore a mask), outfitted with leaf-blower in hand and a gas-powered model at that, was stirring the air with dirt. And, it was going every which way and loose.
Looking out my patio door, I had absolutely no trouble at all determining where all this dirt-blowing activity was taking place. Of course, I could hear where the sound of leaf-blowing was coming from. But, you know what really strikes me as odd?! The person whose job it was to disturb what was settled dirt in the manner done and send it airborne, was that this individual was wearing a face mask, I presume, to protect himself from breathing the fine dirt particles in. That would make sense, except for the fact that if this person recognizes that breathing in the dirt particles is not healthy and has to cover his nose and mouth to keep from having to inhale this matter, why is it that he proceeds to go the leaf-blower route at all? Maybe he has rationalized in his mind that it’s okay as long as he doesn’t have to breathe that airborne contamination in – I mean; it is really difficult to know for sure without getting from him a first-hand explanation as to “why.”
And, so this prompts another question: Wouldn’t using a broom and dustpan be less dirt-disruptive? That’s what I use to clean up my post lawn-mowing clutter, residue. Dirt.
If it isn’t dust and it’s not dirt and it still needs to be dealt with as in removed, it must be debris. Yes, though it could be ashes or ash, depending. I’ll get to the last part in a moment.
Probably once or twice a year, I clean out debris that settles in my home’s rain gutters. It’s a collection of assorted, well, debris. Everything from feathers, bird droppings, twigs, leaves, pine needles – perfect for bird-nest building, pine cones and whatever else can fall off a tree. The rain gutter is the perfect device for retaining this stuff. Some rain gutters are designed to keep debris like this out letting only water running off a structure’s roof getting inside, but my house doesn’t have this type. So, out comes my ladder, I climb up the rungs, sort through it all to remove the bigger items by hand which then get tossed into the green-waste bin, and then I spray water using a hose to move the rest of it down the downspout where it lands on the ground and where it will remain – in other words, it all comes out in the wash. Any bird feathers, meanwhile, get picked out by hand and these go in the bin designated for trash.
As for the ash, this could come from autumn-related leaf-burning activities should these be allowed, fireworks, rubbish burning which I am certain in places is still being done.
Ash also can be from erupting volcanoes, such as Mount St. Helens in 1980 in Washington State. From what I understand, places as far away as Portland in Oregon became covered in a layer of the volcanic ash as a result.
I’d be remiss if I did not include ash from the burning of coal or that from petroleum coke (petcoke) piles “air-lifted” (picked up) and redistributed by the wind which I’m not surprised is problematic from what I’ve read in the Windy City area of Chicago. Debris.
At least a couple of times throughout this discussion I have mentioned the method by which the above-mentioned, with the exception of ash, is disposed of. No matter how this is done, keeping all, or as much of it out of the air as possible is key.
So, there you have it; the poop (sorry, I couldn’t resist) on dust, dirt and debris. What I did not, however, make reference to is the stuff that comes out of automatic dryer exhaust. There may be a use for this matter – who knows?! But, alas, that’s another story.
Bottom image above: Lyn Topinka, U.S. Geological Survey