Many Blast & Paint Contractors or Fabricators have decided to move away from using the relatively inexpensive silica sand (Meramec Sand, Flint, Ottawa, River Sand,Beach Sand, etc.). Historically, silica sand has been the abrasive of choice due to lowest cost per ton,accessibility and marginal effectiveness. However, current OSHA Airborne Silica Exposure Standards along with airborne silica health hazards have effectively caused Blast Shops to cease using silica sand and switch to alternative abrasive media.
Silica sand used as an abrasive always comes with a very undesirable side effect – extremely dusty. And it is the dust (respirable silica dust) that OSHA is specifically regulating because of the life-threatening health consequences.
Alternative abrasives –particularly High Performance Abrasives – will be much lower in dust generation. The benefits of low-dust abrasives not only include greater visibility, but are indicative of an abrasive that does not break down easily (like silica sand). The result is that a low dust abrasive is typically a low-consumption abrasive and will prepare surfaces much faster than dustier counterparts. Low Dust, Low Consumption Rates and High Production Rates are the very definition of High Performance Abrasives.
The not so obvious benefit of low-dust abrasives is to lower the cost per square foot of the surface preparation. With low-dust abrasives, surface preparation is performed faster, with much less abrasive needed and greatly improved visibility compared to moderate or high dust abrasives. Benefits of low-dust High Performance Abrasives many times is so great that the cost per square foot is lower compared to the cheaper per ton silica sand or other dusty media.
So when evaluating alternative abrasive media, the first indication of efficiency and lower overall cost is the dust level observed during the blast test evaluation. If dusty during blasting, try another abrasive that is lower in dust or no dust, and compare the cost per square foot difference. Higher cost per ton low-dust abrasives typically is the least expensive choice.
If a follow-up discussion of low-dust abrasives is needed, please contact TCR Blast Abrasives.