In the past, blast cleaning operations were done with silica sand. The term sandblasting originates from those days. Nowadays, it's clear that exposure to respirable crystalline silica during sandblasting can cause a serious or even fatal respiratory disease, called Silicosis - scarring and hardening of the lungs.
In most countries, it is now forbidden to use abrasives which contain more than 1% free silica. Silica sand contains 90% or more! During blasting the sand particles break down into very small particles. These particles, smaller than 5 microns, are inhaled and become embedded in the lung, causing respiratory problems, pulmonary silicosis (also called 'dust-lungs'), and eventually even death.
During the past years, most countries have established laws to prohibit the use of sand for blasting. In the Netherlands, sandblasting with silica sand has been forbidden already since 1957 and instead of "sandblasting" we now speak about grit or shot blasting, abrasive blasting or blast cleaning.
High quality substitutes are widely available: Recycled glass, Grit Garnet, Aluminium Oxide All these abrasives contain far less than 1% free silica making them worldwide approved abrasives.