Silica is a component of sand used in many industrial applications. Silica becomes airborne as microscopic particles when sandblasters blast sand at high rates of speed to clean equipment, when workers mix silica flour, when sand is ground in foundries, and in other applications.
Sandblasting is highly associated with the development of a lung pneumoconiosis knows as silicosis. This has also led to a medical relationship between exposure to silica sands and several health problems.
Most notably among those are the following:
- Silicosis (scarring of the lungs due to prior exposure to silica)
- Autoimmune diseases
These disease processes are most common among sandblasters, painters, foundry men, and glass workers. Indirect exposure by other crafts working in the vicinity of tradesmen has also led to the diagnosis of these various ailments. At least 1.7 million U.S. workers are exposed to respirable crystalline silica [NIOSH 1991].