Silica sand is one of the most common varieties of sand found in the world. It is used for a wide range of applications, and can be purchased from various suppliers throughout the world. Silica sand is used in industrial processing, to make glass, as fill, and to create molds and castings.
Sand is the general term for broken down granules of minerals or rocks, technically between about one-sixteenth of a millimeter to two millimeters in diameter, falling between silt and gravel in the spectrum of sizes. There are many varieties of sand in the world, each with their own unique composition and qualities. The white sandy beaches of iconic tropical destinations, for example, are made up primarily of limestone that has been broken down, while many black sands are either volcanic in origin or contain magnetite. Other sands have high levels of iron in them, and so are rich and yellow in color.
The most common mineral in the Earth’s continental crust is quartz, and most silica sand is made up of broken down quartz crystals. Silica is another name for silicon dioxide, SiO2, of which quartz is a specific latticed structure. So silica sand is quartz that over the years, through the work of water and wind, has been broken down into tiny granules. These granules can be used for many different purposes, and can be found in most non-tropical regions of the world.
Silica sand is used throughout the world, and in so many different ways it is hard to imagine a world without it. From water filtration, to glass manufacture, to industrial casting, to sand blasting, to producing concrete, to adding texture to slick roads, silica sand impacts every aspect of daily life. Many industrial suppliers carry silica sand in bulk quantities, while some smaller household stores sell it in smaller amounts for home or home construction use. One of the major uses of silica sand in the modern world is as an ingredient in industrial concrete. Silica sand produces the bulk of a great deal of concrete, although some concrete bypasses its use for safety and strength reasons. At industrial scales, silica sand can cost less than $0.50 US Dollars (USD) per pound, while the consumer rate is around $1.50 USD per pound.
Because of the fine grains involved in silica sand, it can present a health risk if not properly handled. In projects where products containing silica sand are being cut or pounded, such as demolition projects involving concrete, or sandblasting operations, care must be taken to keep the silica sand out of the lungs. Failure to wear a respirator or mask can result in lung irritation, and prolonged exposure can cause a chronic condition known as silicosis. Silicosis has no ready treatment, and can cause severe pain or death. Additionally, silicosis increases the likelihood of secondary infections, such as tuberculosis, and has been linked to an increased incidence of lung cancer. As a result, all materials containing more than 0.1% of silica sand must be clearly labeled, and workplace health codes apply.