The trail of red mud across Hungary last October after a dam at an aluminum ore processing factory burst may not be as bad as feared, researchers say.

Mihaly Posfai of the University of Pannonia and colleagues say areas near Ajka in northern Hungary were inundated with more than 700,000 cubic yards of caustic red mud after the dam burst.

Ten people died and dozens were injured — and since the mud contained potentially toxic substances there was concern about the health effects of inhaling dust formed when the mud dried and was swept into the air by wind, Posfai said.

Posfai and colleagues studied the chemical and physical properties of the red mud particles and dust and concluded that particles of red mud dust were too large to be inhaled deeply into lungs, where they could cause the most damage.

“Although the resuspension potential of red mud dust is large, inhalation likely would cause irritation and coughing, but would not increase the risk of other more serious health problems,” the report says.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, concludes the dust from the mud may be no more harmful than particles of ordinary urban air pollution.

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