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Blasting abrasives: health hazard comparison.

Greskevitch M; Middendorf P; Hearl F; Castranova V; Ahlers H
Med Lav 2002 Oct; 93(Suppl):S42-S43
Historically the most common form of abrasive blasting, sand blasting, has generated respirable quartz dust, which can lead to the development of silicosis, a deadly lung disease that continues to occur in abrasive blasters. Several substitutes for silica sand have been suggested, but little data exist which compare the respiratory health hazards of substitute abrasives to silica sand. This study compares the dust generation characteristics and in vivo toxicity of several blasting abrasives (table 1). Studies were conducted in controlled environments to compare concentrations of respirable quartz, respirable dust, and various toxic contaminants for each of the substitute abrasives relative to silica sand. Abrasive blasting with silica sand generated respirable quartz concentrations much greater than the NIOSH recommended exposure limit of 0.05 mg/m3, while the concentrations of respirable quartz were much lower when using substitute abrasives (table 2). However, some substitute abrasives generated concentrations of potentially toxic components more than 10 times the NIOSH REL (table 3). Steel grit was the only substitute abrasive that generated significantly less respirable dust than silica sand. NIOSH investigators reported the relative short-term in vivo toxicity of these substitutes by using intratracheal instillation of equal respirable dust concentrations of each abrasive in male rats. Short-term in vivo evidence indicates that, compared to silica sand, steel grit and specular hematite have less potential to cause lung disease. The potential long-term toxicity of steel grit requires further studies because it contains arsenic and nickel and some forms of arsenic and nickel can cause cancer. Each of the other substitute blasting abrasives caused in vivo lung toxicity similar to or greater than silica sand. Regardless of the choice of abrasive, effective engineering controls, work practices, and respiratory protection (i.e., Type CE abrasive-blasting supplied-air respirators for abrasive blasters) should be used to reduce the hazards associated with blasting abrasives and substrates.
Silicates; Silicosis; Silica-dusts; Pulmonary-disorders; Pulmonary-function; Pulmonary-system-disorders; Fibrogenicity; Lung-cells; Lung-disease; Lung-disorders; Lung-irritants; Epidemiology; Quartz-dust; Statistical-analysis; Respiratory-irritants; Respiratory-system-disorders; Abrasive-blasting; Health-hazards; Occupational-hazards; Occupational-exposure; Occupational-respiratory-disease
Publication Date
Document Type
Conference/Symposia Proceedings; Abstract
Fiscal Year
NIOSH Division
Priority Area
Research Tools and Approaches: Exposure Assessment Methods
Source Name
La Medicina del Lavoro. 3rd International Symposium on Silica, Silicosis, Cancer and Other Diseases, S. Margherita Ligure, 21-25 October 2002
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division