Why sand is rarely used in abrasive blasting

At one time, sandblasting was the mainstay in abrasive treatment. Sand was more readily available than the other media. But sand had issues like moisture content that made it difficult to spread with compressed air. Sand also had a lot of contaminants found in natural supplies.

The biggest challenge in using sand as an abrasive media is its health hazard. Sand used in sandblasting is made of silica. When inhaled, silica particles lodge into the respiratory system, potentially causing severe respiratory illnesses such as silicosis. Silica dust is also a known cause of lung cancer.

The United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) take a dim view of American workers inhaling silica particles. While OSHA doesn’t outright ban silica sand from being used as a media in abrasive blasting operations, they’ve created enough safety regulations to prevent the practice of “sand” blasting today. You can familiarize yourself with these restrictions by reading OSHA’s fact sheet on Protecting Workers from the Hazards of Abrasive Blasting Materials.

Besides being a dangerous abrasive blasting material, sand can’t compare to the excellent selection of modern abrasive materials available for a wide purpose range. Sand is solely restricted to the compressed air blasting method. The centrifugal/mechanical abrasive treatment method is more versatile than sandblasting. However, which method you use to prepare products for finishing depends on many variables.

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