Amorphous Glass - It Won't Hurt You
What happens when you
grind up glass and some of the fine particles become
airborne? It looks and acts like dust. The presence
of dust in the working environment or even in an open
area has become a concern to the health and safety officers
for public and private operations. Silica dust, not
glass dust, is a known hazard and long term exposure
is linked to silicosis, a disabling lung condition.
Since glass is made
out of silica, the connection is immediately made, and
concern for worker safety is often expressed when producing
or handling the glass sand. At this point, it is very
important to know the difference between the crystalline
structure of silica sand and the amorphous structure
Silica sand in its
natural state has a crystalline structure that has the
capacity of “sticking” to lung tissues.
Once the silica is fired and fused with other ingredients
to make glass, the chemical/physical structure of the
glass is now called amorphous. Glass is amorphous with
a closed structure that doesn’t absorb anything
and doesn’t physically stick to tissues. If a
person is exposed to amorphous glass fines or dust,
the body can expectorate the dust as it would any other
type of natural dirt. OHSA simply classifies the glass
dust as a nuisance dust.
If you generate some
glass dust as you recycle glass, dust suppression or
dust collection systems can be used to keep the levels
of dust down for the comfort of the operators and the
cleanliness of the working environment. Common sense
applies and the same health and safety practices apply
here as they would for any other type of dusty environments.
In fact, if pulverized
glass is being used in a high speed impact application
like abrasive cleaning (also knows as sandblasting),
studies show the fines produced by glass have lower
levels of crystalline or other heavy metal contaminants
than commonly used sandblasting media.
Vitrified coal, copper
or steel slag is the material used to produce “Black
Beauty”, a well known sand blasting media. The
fine dust produced by “Black Beauty”, silica
sand and many other common blasting abrasives contain
heavy metals and crystalline silica. A study by KTA-tator,
an independent testing laboratory, concluded that glass
was the safest blasting media available.
Now, how are you going
to remember the difference between crystalline and amorphous
silica? Remember the Latin word “amor”?
You will find it in words like amorous or enamored.
This Latin word for love is the description of glass
that you will love…Amorphous glass.