Do you work in an industry where compressed air is required? Sand blasters and painters are two vocations where compressed air may be necessary. According to Medline Plus, abrasives manufacturing, glass manufacturing, mining, quarrying, road and building construction and stone cutting also fall into that category. Each of these jobs commonly involves some form of abrasive blasting that uses compressed air.

What is compressed air?

“Compressed air is a gas, or a combination of gases, that has been put under greater pressure than the air in the general environment,” informs The site goes on to explain that compressed air can be used in a variety of applications that include everything from jackhammers and tire pumps to air rifles and even aerosol cheese. It is widely used because of its ability to be a “clean, inexpensive, and infinitely renewable energy source.”

What is abrasive blasting?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (or the CDC) defines abrasive blasting as a technique that forcefully projects “a stream of abrasive particles onto a surface, usually with compressed air or steam. Because silica sand is commonly used in this process, workers who perform abrasive blasting are often known as sandblasters.” That brings up another important question.

What is silica?

As Medline Plus explains it, “Silica is a common, naturally-occurring crystal. It is found in most rock beds. Silica dust forms during mining, quarrying, tunneling, and working with certain metal ores. Silica is a main part of sand, so glass workers and sand-blasters are also exposed to silica.” Now that we’ve answered a bunch of important questions, one more query needs answering.

How does all of this impact our breathing?

Inhaling silica can cause silicosis. “When workers inhale the crystalline silica used in abrasive blasting, the lung tissue reacts by developing fibrotic nodules and scarring around the trapped silica particles,” explains the CDC, “This fibrotic condition of the lung is called silicosis. If the nodules grow too large, breathing becomes difficult and death may result.”

This is why it’s so important for sand blasters, painters and other workers of similar professions to wear air respirators while doing their jobs. Respirators protect such individuals from inhaling harmful dusts, fumes, vapours and gases. But what about the quality of the air once the job has been completed? How do you know when it is safe to enter an area where abrasive blasting has taken place?

Have you tested for respirable crystalline silica?

Enviro-Works Inc. is the only laboratory in western Canada to offer in-house respirable crystalline silica testing. It is also one of the only labs in North America to offer the low detection limits we provide for our clients. We’re very proud of the fact that our lab has both the Canadian version (CALA) and the American version (AIHA-LAP) of accreditation for silica analysis.

The Enviro-Works Inc. team now offers the analysis of respirable crystalline silica by X-Ray Diffraction (XRD). Using the NIOSH 7500 method, we analyze samples with XRD and are able to offer a 5ug detection limit for quartz and cristobalite and a 20ug detection limit for tridymite. Our bulk silica analysis has detection limits of 1% mass for alpha quartz and cristobalite and 2% mass for tridymite.

For more information about the accredited respirable crystalline silica testing offered by Enviro-Works Inc., please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 780-457-4652. You may also email us at