Sandblasting is a technique utilising silica sand to prepare or clean metal by removing its old finish by blasting the sand through a special sprayer powered by steam or air. Companies that use sandblasting in their work must comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHAs) Gases, Vapors, Fumes, Dusts and Mists standards, Title 29 Code of Federal Regulations 1926.55 as well as other related OSHA standards that have been adopted to protect the health and well-being of workers who operate sandblasters or who work in the vicinity of a sandblaster.
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Silicosis is a disease that occurs as the result of inhaling the dust of crystalline silica. Breathing in the dust causes scar tissue to form in the lungs, which in turn causes the muscles in the lungs to stiffen and prevents them from drawing in adequate amounts of oxygen. Acute silicosis occurs after short periods of exposure; chronic silicosis occurs after 10 years or more exposure. No cure exists for silicosis, and it can be fatal.
Other Chemical Inhalants
The sandblasting procedure causes particles of silica sand and metal dust to hang in the air and float about the general area for some time even after the sandblasting has ended. Workers using sandblasting equipment, or those who work in the vicinity, if not wearing protective gear, will inhale the metal dust particles. Metal dust can contain many different chemical elements. Each of these elements impact the human body in a different way when inhaled. For example, lead can cause neuropathy, sterility, cancer and paralysis. Cadmium can cause kidney disease, hypertension and cancer. Nickel can cause cancer to develop in the nasal passages and trigger occupational asthma.
Chemical Skin Exposure
Chemicals found in the metal dust particles, such as copper, barium, chromium and tin can be absorbed through the skin and can have a systemic effect on the body. Minimal exposure can cause a skin irritation or rash, but, with enough exposure, there can be a toxic effect beyond blistering. These chemicals can have a neurological impact. Because of this risk, OSHA recommends that workers wear protective covering when exposed to the metal particles and that chemicals are monitored regularly.
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