Fumed Silica Dust Collection
Reducing the Risk of Fumed Silica Dust Exposure
Fumed silica is a man-made substance, so it’s no surprise that it’s known by multiple names—Diatomaceous earth, Diatomaceous silica, Diatomite, Silicon dioxide (amorphous) and Vitreous silica, at least. In fact, before 1989, its official name was silica (amorphous). Today, however, industry and regulators tend to call the substance fumed silica—not to be confused with silica fume, of course, which is an industrial byproduct and quite different from fumed silica.
Fumed silica is a highly useful industrial chemical used in a huge number of consumer and industrial products. It is made by submitting silicon tetrachloride to intense flame, which produces molten spheres of silicon dioxide. These spheres then join together into small, branched clusters that have a massive surface area. Fumed silica’s high ratio of surface area to mass is one of the qualities that makes the substances so useful in so many products. In particular, its effects on viscosity are profound. Fumed silica is used in paints, sealants, adhesives, cosmetics, lotions, and countless other products.
The widespread use of fumed silica means it is important to be sure it is used safely. The fine powder can easily become airborne, and, beyond a certain exposure limit, can be an inhalation hazard to workers.