A wide variety of products are used to create photographic dust effects in motion picture and television production. This awareness sheet has been developed to inform and assist productions when using these products. It is important that productions fully understand the possible effects of exposure, especially if potentially harmful ingredients are present.

Photographic dust effects are also created by the use of organic products. Some of the more common organic products include wheat flour, rice flour, corn starch, coffee creamers and crushed nutshells.

Individuals with allergies to these products should use caution and avoid exposure.

To minimize potential exposures:

– Remove unnecessary personnel.

– Use only enough products to create the effect needed.

– If indoors, periodically ventilate the area.

– Use proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as necessary.

Other Safety Considerations:

– Any combustible material which, in a finely powdered form, is suspended in the air in sufficient quantity has the potential to flash or explode. Therefore, be aware of static electricity, which can cause dust products to flash, when transferring dust products from containers.

– Be aware of elevated airborne concentrations during clean-up procedures. Elevated airborne concentrations increase the potential for exposure and flashing.

– If the product is combustible, do not use around open flames or other potential sources of ignition (e.g., set lighting devices).

– Industrial hygiene monitoring may be necessary to determine the airborne concentration, lower explosion levels, and/or particulate size during use.


– Common effects of exposure are eye irritation, respiratory irritation, and skin irritation (i.e., contact dermatitis).

– Anyone with allergies, asthma or other respiratory illnesses or limitations should take appropriate precautions.

– Burns as a result of ignition and flashing.


– The following are some actions you can take to minimize potentially harmful or dangerous exposures:

Prior to using any materials for photographic dust effects:

– Know the products that you are using as well as the location and conditions under which they will be used.

– Obtain a current Manufacturer’s Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for the specific product you are using.

– Avoid products that contain known carcinogens.

– Inform all cast and crew about the products being used, the necessary precautions that should be taken, and the products’ potential effects.