Drone’s eye view of Burning Man 2016 – YouTube: looks real neat, no?
Every year, we see lots of news stories of the huge, expensive party of people with money literally to burn, having the time of their lives in a fatally dangerous desert place with particularly toxic dust. And every year there is a dust storm at this event. Especially in recent years. Why do we act as if playa dust is safe? : BurningMan: a young and very naive doctor is studying the Burning Man health problems and has very alarming news which he or she, themselves, is struggling to ignore since the poor sap wants desperately to return there to party on, dudes!
I just got my PhD in respiratory toxicology this May and I am currently working on a paper that should be published this fall on the toxicity of playa dust at Burning Man.
I brought with me an instrument in 2012 that looked at the level of particulates in the air in the size range that is the most detrimental to humans. The daily average for the 7 day period during the event was around 4 times the daily dose recommended by the EPA.
Nearly every year, they have a raging dust storm there at least once, often more than once. Back in 2014, it rained: Burning Man Event Drowns In Mud This Year! | Culture of Life News. So that year, there was a lot less dust to breathe. In the past, I have spoken about this dangerous dust.
I also brought some of the dust back to the lab with me to assess it’s composition and level of toxicity.
The dust is 70% silica, which is known to be toxic when inhaled in large quantities. I found the dust had even greater toxicity than silica alone, and is likely to due organic components in the sand dust.
Yes, it is toxic. It is very dangerous. And one has to wear proper masks when exposed and a dust suit and no one does both, and they live there, they don’t just work briefly there, it is day and night and this toxic dust is all over everything.
These are only preliminary results so I cannot make any conclusions on the potential of the dust to lead to long term health impacts. I would theorize that given the short period of exposure there are likely very little long term health effects but it likely does explain why many burners experience playa cough for a few weeks to a month after the event.
*Hack*cough* Yes, this is a bad sign for the coughing brings up little to no toxins. They simply get lodged in the lungs and sit there for years and years until the person dies of cancer or simply unable to breathe anymore.
I would advise at risk individuals, such as those with asthma or other respiratory diseases, to take extra precautions while at the BM event. I also recommend for everyone to use a dust mask, especially during dust storms, and make sure that it has a filter and completely seals around your mouth. Other masks will do little to no good at stopping the finer particulates from getting into your lungs, and those are the most toxic.
I am currently designing an epidemiological study that I hope to do in the next couple of years to determine if those who have attended Burning Man for a number of years show a decline in respiratory function.
Yikes. So, this person intends to study the victims of this scam in the dangerous silicone zone? Could prove useful except we already know it is highly dangerous, it kills over time and being exposed for several weeks a year is fatal. Why they imagine they can do this with impunity forever is baffling.
[–]DisregardMyPantsDaft Punk’s Official Burning Man Representative 13 points 1 year ago*
1) This was a super informative/interesting post.
2) I don’t think many people pretend it’s “Safe”, though few have put as much thought/effort into it as you have. Playa dust is evil, nasty shit that will get into any pore in anything and clog it up. It destroys a lot of organic matter and will make you cough for days. Most people I know acknowledge this, but love the dust just the same.
The sex fun is what Burning Man is all about. It is pure hedonism in a huge, gigantic way. It is also fatal. But then, so is wild sex in so many ways.
[–]raevnosGerlach Regional Burn 7 points 1 year ago
There’s also some fairly radioactive hot spots out there.
[–]JaggedOne 1 point 1 year ago
Really now? What causes this, and have you measured it?
[–]raevnosGerlach Regional Burn 8 points 1 year ago
It’s a very geothermically active region (Hence all the hot springs). There’s a lot of uranium in the area. Gerlach’s had problems with their water supply because of it.
Now comes an electron microscope picture of the nasty stuff:
[–]eonfathom 3 points 1 year ago
Here are a few electron micrographs of some playa dust, also showing how I collected it. Keep in mind this was also collected after I drove home, but it gives an idea of size of the extremely fine particles: down to the resolution of my scope, from a few nanometers, tens of nanometers, and up to microns. It’s hard to say if the extremely small ones are actually free or if charge dominates, and they always form clumps. 500X magnification, 4000X, and 50,000X magnification.
Now comes testimonials from very young people who are younger than I and think, if they don’t die of lung disease or cancer by age 32, they are immortal.
[–]yayj 5 points 1 year ago
I am. And 16 years of 2+ weeks in the dust each year, plus 2 weeklong 4Juplayas, and several kiting bonneville/alvord type events haven’t done diddly to my lungs. I do recommend licorice (sun) tea daily on the playa; I dose my camp every day, no playa lung amongst us, ever.
Note how this naive child thinks drinking an exotic tea will fix things! And others fall for this silliness:
[–]Antranik 1 point 1 year ago
Can you tell me more about this licorice (sun?) tea? I am a huge fan of licorice/anise teas and would love to know what to get.
[–]DotBeech 1 point 1 year ago
For a number of default world reasons, there has been extensive study of the severe respiratory problems suffered by people who were engulfed in the dust cloud when the World Trade Center towers came down.
But good luck tracking down all the past burners to find out if there is a burgeoning problem related to inhalation of playa dust. The chaotic organization that runs the Burning Man, with its ‘Safety Third’ motto and its acceptance of risk language printed on its tickets, obviously has little interest in following up on the potential playa-related illnesses its ticket buyers may be suffering.
The people running Burning Man seem to be committed libertarians. It would be too much to ask that they take any responsibility for the health of their 70,000 invitees, or even move the thing to a place where it can be held safely. There could be a real problem out there, but the Burning Man leadership seems unlikely to do anything to find out.
Yes, they don’t care so long as fools spend huge sums to go to a very dangerous site to run wild for days on end and when they die, they all get to go to hell, as far as the organizers are concerned. Burning Man livestream shows intense dust storms in 2014 and 2015- Business Insider reports.
No one tracks anything with this and I suppose no one will care if they all die before collecting Social Security.
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