Vapour abrasive blasting: a safe solution for lead paint removal

Vapour abrasive blasting is one of the best solutions for the safe removal of lead-based paint

When removing coatings from wood, stone, and metal surfaces, lead-based paint is one of the most challenging materials to get rid of.

As well as presenting removal challenges, lead paints can also cause health problems when inhaled or swallowed.
The risks of lead-based paint removal

Workers who conduct abrasive blasting of large lead-painted surfaces are exposed to significant amounts of lead. Lead is a poison that builds up in the human body over a period of time until symptoms occur. Continued high exposure can cause several health problems such as kidney damage, paralysis, lead palsy, and nerve and brain damage. The highest risks come from inhalation of airborne lead containing dust and ingestion via contaminated hands or food.

The hazards of dry blasting

Dry blasting is a commonly used technique to remove lead-based paint. Unfortunately, this often leads to lead exposure risks to the workers and the surrounding community. Many people consider the deteriorating, flaking, or peeling of lead paint to be an important exposure hazard, yet dry blasting creates the biggest risk. Abrasive blasting generates small lead particles that pose a risk to the nervous system, and breathing in lead-laced abrasive dust can lead to lung disorders and lead poisoning.

Even when properly performed, dry abrasive blasting remains problematic. The process generates large amounts of waste sand that is contaminated with lead and is very expensive to bury and contain.

Vapour abrasive blasting: the safe solution for lead paint removal

More and more contractors have chosen to use wet and vapour abrasive blasting for the removal of lead-based paint and other coatings. Vapour abrasive blasting is an innovative technique that combines water and abrasive media in a pot under pressure. The mixture is then injected into an airstream, resulting in an efficient, controlled system to remove materials from surfaces.

Vapour abrasive blasting has some important advantages in comparison with dry and wet abrasive blasting:

·       Reduced rebounding particles
Vapour abrasive blasting minimizes the rebound of abrasive particles. This is especially important when removing lead-based paint, which can lead to serious health problems. The removal of hazardous lead-based paint is subject to various Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations.

·       Reduced dust production
Vapour abrasive blasting encapsulates individual grains of abrasive material in water, weighing the particles down and providing more mass on the particle at impact. Vapour abrasive blasting reduces dust production by up to 92% compared to dry blasting. The advantages: less containment is required and media clean-up time is reduced.

·       Minimal water usage
Vapour abrasive blasting requires far less water than traditional wet blasting systems. It not enables to save on water usage, making containment and clean-up of debris simple and less messy.

Safety precautions still needed

Although vapour abrasive blasting significantly reduces dust production, preventative measures are still required to meet project requirements and environmental regulations:

·       Lead stabilisation additive
By mixing a lead stabilisation additive with the abrasive media before carrying out the blasting, the risks for workers and environment are further reduced:

·       Additives such as Blastox® encapsulate lead particles, converting them into a relatively insoluble lead silicate and minimizing the leaching of lead particles into soil.

·       Products such as PreTox Paint Stripper change the chemical properties and increase blast production rates when removing lead-based paint.

·       Containment
For vapour abrasive blasting of lead-based paints, containment is still required. Geotextiles or stationary structures are used to prevent emissions and debris from escaping the treated area and leaking into the soil. Partial containment is sufficient in most cases and can be realized by enclosing the area with covers supported by a rigid or flexible structure, or a plywood barricade. 

·       Personal protective equipment (PPE)
There are OSHA standards for personal protective equipment (PPE) for dry abrasive blasting. Such standards do not exist for wet or vapour abrasive blasting. This does not mean PPE should not be applied for vapour abrasive blasting, however. We recommend you provide workers with the same PPE as used for dry blasting:

·       respirators

·       hearing protection

·       face shields

·       blast suits

·       gloves

·       boots



Whether you plan to clean and prepare a surface or remove graffiti or paint, it’s time to consider an alternative to your dry blaster or power washer. Graco’s EcoQuip is an affordable vapour abrasive blast system that gets the job done quickly and effectively. Not only is it easy to use, it’s portable enough to take from one job to another. In addition, Graco’s EcoQuip reduces dust production by up to 92% compared to traditional dry blasting and uses very little water.

Source: Randrmagonline

Contact a blasting expert

Please enter a value
Please select
Please enter a value
Please enter a value
Please select
Please enter a value
Please enter a value