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Is Dry Ice Blasting Dangerous? February 11, 2020

 

Because dry ice blasting can seem like a very dangerous method of cleaning, people have a lot of queries about it.  
Let us answer 6 of your most pressing questions about the dangers of dry ice blasting.  

 

Presco Environmental technicians, Jeremy and Rob, during a dry ice blasting job.
Presco Environmental technicians, Jeremy and Rob, during a dry ice blasting job.


Does dry ice blasting create dangerous amounts of CO2 in the air?

No.  Your people can keep working while your plant is being dry ice blasted.

Thankfully, dry ice blasting changes the CO₂ level in the air very minimally.  This is why musicians can keep singing while dry ice smoke covers their stage.  It is also why, with standard mechanical ventilation or natural airflow, dry ice technicians and other room occupants are completely safe.  However, some vigilant technicians will still have gas detectors on them as an additional safety precaution. 

 

Do I need to use a breathing apparatus when dry ice blasting?

Only in a confined space.

When dry ice blasting in a confined space without sufficient ventilation, breathing apparatus should be used.  Like Presco Environmental technicians do, it is also a good idea to set up mechanical extraction if dry ice blasting in any confined space.

 

Does cleaning with CO2 contribute to climate change? 

No, it recycles a byproduct of industrial processes.

Many people are confused by dry ice blasting – it releases CO₂ into the atmosphere, yet we claim it is an environmentally friendly cleaning method!

The truth is CO₂ is not bad; it is a natural gas.  Plants require it to survive.  So do we. 

For dry ice blasting, CO₂ gas is captured as a byproduct of industrial processes before being released into the atmosphere and compressed into frozen pellets.  When using these pellets to clean, the gas is reused and then released back into the atmosphere.  No extra CO₂ is created.  Read more about this here.

 

Frozen CO2 pellets steaming inside scoop.
Frozen CO2 pellets steaming inside scoop.

 

Can dry ice blasting cause an explosion?

This is only a possibility in high dust level environments.  

We trust you are not wanting to make a dry ice bomb in reading this article, but many people do associate dry ice with explosions, therefore ask whether this is a hazard when cleaning. 

In a very powdery environment, like sawdust or milk powder, explosions are a hazard.  These are a possibility when static energy builds up, then a spark is created, causing ignition.  If this is a problem, Presco Environmental’s dry ice blasting equipment has earth grounding leads and technicians can use non-conductive lances to ensure no discharge is caused when two metal surfaces touch. 

 

Extreme cold and ricocheting – is dry ice blasting dangerous to people?

Standard personal protective equipment is required.  

People are often concerned about physical harm to humans from the extreme cold of dry ice, and the possibility of it ricocheting. 

Yes, dry ice is shockingly cold.  -78°C to be exact.  However, the rice-sized pellets do not have enough physical mass to hold this extreme temperature against the skin and allow it to burn.  Like a snowflake, CO₂ will not burn on contact with skin.  Normal gloves and full body cover are still required during this performance. 

 

Presco Environmental technicians wear standard gloves when handling dry ice.
Presco Environmental technicians wear standard gloves when handling dry ice.

 

The fear of ricocheting pellets is similar.  Normal body cover and eye protection are required however, dry ice blasting is very low pressure.  In fact, the blasting is between 150-200psi, compared to a standard pressure washer at 3000psi. 

 

So, what is the most dangerous thing when dry ice blasting?

The honest answer: noise.

Noise is the most hazardous part of this entire method.  Compressed air passes through a narrow orifice in the gun, creating a very loud rushing noise.  Grade 5 ear protection is required when dry ice blasting. 

 

Presco Environmental technician, Rob, wears gloves, safety glasses and ear protection while dry ice blasting.
Presco Environmental technician, Rob, wears gloves, safety glasses and ear protection while dry ice blasting.

 

Realistically, dry ice blasting is one of the safest cleaning methods available.

 

Do you have any other questions on the dangers of dry ice blasting?  Ask us below.  

 


 

Matthew Prestidge, General Manager

About the Author

Matthew Prestidge is our General Manager and Senior Industrial Hygiene and Indoor Air Quality advisor.

Having spent the last 15 years creating more sustainable environments on industrial sites, Matthew has seen the good, the bad and the ugly and knows what is required to “clean up”.   

Would you like to discuss solutions to industrial cleaning issues?  
Matthew offers a free consultation and easy-to-implement advice on Industrial Hygiene and Indoor Air Quality for anyone in the New Zealand Food and Beverage industry. Contact him at matthew@presco.co.nz 

 
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