For industrial coatings to properly adhere, the surfaces to be coated must be properly prepared. In most instances, the most effective method for preparing those surfaces is abrasive blasting. However, there are problems associated with media blasting that cause concern. Most notably, silicosis is associated with blasting of sand media. While modern safety regulations have significantly reduced many health threats, it is not possible to reduce the total risks involved. Additionally, environmental threats must be addressed to protect not only workers, but also others in the immediate area.
Abrasive blasting leaves waste that must be collected and properly disposed of to properly protect the environment. Dust created through the blasting of dry media poses an immediate threat to anyone in the vicinity, but there is a residual threat that has the potential to be an even more serious long-term danger. The blasting media and the material removed can, potentially, be blown or washed away from the site. Once the material becomes airborne, it is virtually impossible to collect. Additionally, waste that is washed from the site may enter water supplies throughout the region. Neither is a desired outcome. However, using wet media may reduce that danger.
Vacuum loading may also reduce the environmental threats involved while abrasive blasting projects are in process. Vacuum loading can effectively collect wet or dry waste as it is generated, virtually eliminating environmental threats. Given the increasing pressures to reduce environmental damage, it is likely that regulations concerning abrasive blasting will continue to proliferate in the future. Even without regulations, there is a moral imperative demanding users of blasting equipment use all methods required to protect themselves and the environment.
That suggests that alternatives to abrasive blasting be considered. However, there are currently no methods truly competitive with blasting. Other methods are far too costly to be practical and still entail health threats. The reality is that abrasive blasting is currently the only practical way to efficiently prepare surfaces for re-coating. Therefore, one must conclude that media blasting is the best solution for preparing most surfaces for re-coating. The emphasis must now be placed on making the process as safe and environmentally sound as possible. As noted, governmental agencies will inevitably step in and increase regulations, but contractors still have a responsibility for protecting themselves, their workers and the ultimate users of the property. By carefully selecting the proper abrasive media and adhering to all safety precautions, abrasive blasting is the best way to properly prepare surfaces for re-coating.