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Sodium bicarbonate ("baking soda") has a long and established history of safe use among humans and animals. First produced in 1791, it has since been used as a leavening agent in cooking, a mild disinfectant and deodorant, an antacid, a skin balm to treat itching, in toothpaste, and as a cattle feed supplement. It is benign if ingested, inhaled, or if it comes into contact with skin.

Sodium bicarbonate is non-toxic and non-hazardous, as defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, respectively. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration classifies sodium bicarbonate as "generally recognized as safe," and ARMEX™ has been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as an A1 cleaner—suitable for use in areas where it is likely to come into contact with food. As a blast media, baking soda will not produce thermal sparks, flames, or heat build-up and so can also be safely used in explosion-proof facilities, such as chemical plants, grain elevators, and refineries.

From the user's standpoint, soda enjoys a number of advantages relative to competing blasting materials. While soda dust can be a mild irritant if it is breathed into the lungs or gets in one's eyes, it carries none of the risks that are related to human contact with chemicals and many of the harder abrasives often used in blasting operations.

Unlike chemical cleaning solvents, soda blasting does not involve toxic fumes or the danger of skin burns. Similarly, it avoids the respiratory problems and lung damage that can occur from the use of abrasives such as coal, copper, and nickel slag—as well as the risks relating to the trace amounts of toxic metals, such as arsenic, beryllium, and cadmium, that these slags can contain.

Sand blasting, in particular, involves the generation of significant amounts of crystalline silica dust, which has been classified as a human lung carcinogen. It has also been directly linked with the development of silicosis, an incurable disease in which silica dust enters the lungs and causes the formation of scar tissue, reducing the lungs’ ability to take in oxygen.

While these blasting methods require extensive personal protection equipment—such as blast suits, helmets, air pumps, breathing lines, and dust collection systems with multiple exhaust ducts—and yet still carry a measure of health and safety risk to operators, the gear required for soda blasting is relatively straightforward. The basic protective wear required largely comprises protective eye goggles or a face shield, a dust mask or dual-cartridge respirator, and ear plugs to protect against noise.

Common-sense safety guidelines that operators should also observe include using only purpose-built soda-blasting tools, grounding equipment to prevent against electrostatic discharge, and following all safety precautions as outlined in the relevant equipment operating manual.

For more information visit the ARMEX FAQs.