Abrasive Blasting Operations

Abrasive Blasting

Abrasive blasting is defined as the cleaning or preparation of a surface by forcibly propelling a stream of abrasive material against a surface. “Sandblasting” is also a term that describes this activity and for all purposes means the same as abrasive blasting. Confined abrasive blasting is conducted within a permanent building while unconfined abrasive blasting is generally performed outdoors.

Particulate emissions from abrasive blasting operations can be a significant source of air pollution. To address this activity, the California Air Resources Board (ARB) adopted air pollution standards and requirements that apply to abrasive blasting operations, of which the District enforces. These standards are found in Title 17 of the California Code of Regulations, sections 92000 through 92520. The general provisions in §92500 require abrasive blasting activities to be conducted within a permanent building. Only under special conditions may abrasive blasting be conducted outdoors.

In addition to the Title 17 standards and requirements, it may be necessary for an owner or operator of abrasive blasting equipment to obtain a Permit to Operate from the District, per Rule 2010 – Permits Required. The equipment may be exempt from this requirement if registered as portable equipment with the District per Rule 2280 – Portable Equipment Registration or with the state through the ARB Portable Equipment Registration Program. Please contact the District's Small Business Assistance Program for more information on permitting and portable equipment registration requirements.

Visible Emissions

The visible emission standards described in §92400 apply to both confined and unconfined abrasive blasting. Visible emissions created from confined abrasive blasting activities are limited to 20% opacity and unconfined abrasive blasting activities are limited to 40% opacity. “Opacity” is a visual evaluation of the amount of one’s view that is obscured by a dust plume. District inspectors are certified by the Air Resources Board to evaluate visible emissions using state and federal guidelines.

Confined Abrasive Blasting

Abrasive blasting is to be conducted inside a permanent building unless specific conditions allow for items to be blasted outdoors. It may be required to install and operate a fabric or cartridge filter dust collector that provides a minimum of 99 percent control of the particulate matter emission caused by the blasting activities. Visible emissions are limited to the 20% opacity standard.

Unconfined Abrasive Blasting

Unconfined abrasive blasting is essentially abrasive blasting conducted outdoors. Visible emissions from permissible unconfined abrasive blasting are limited to the 40% opacity standard. Additional requirements are in place when preparing surfaces for pavement markings and blasting stucco and concrete.

Unconfined abrasive blasting is permissible if the following conditions are met:

  • Steel or iron shot/grit is used exclusively; OR
  • The item to be blasted exceeds eight feet in any dimension or is situated at its permanent location. Blasting is to be conducted by any of the following methods:
    • Wet abrasive blasting: using compressed air as the propelling force and water to minimize visible emissions.
    • Hydro blasting: using high-pressure liquid as the propelling force.
    • Vacuum blasting: a vacuum device immediately collects the spent abrasive, surface material, and dust.
    • Dry abrasive blasting using abrasives certified by the Air Resources Board

Pavement Marking

Pertaining to surface preparation for raised traffic delineating markers and pavement marking removal using abrasive blasting. The performance standards are defined in §92510 and require:

  • Using wet abrasive blasting, hydro blasting, or vacuum blasting; OR
  • Dry abrasive blasting for removing or preparing the surface for immediate application of pavement markings of less than 1,000 square feet or for preparing the surface for raised traffic delineating markers using ARB Certified Abrasives.

Stucco and Concrete

The performance standards are defined in §92520 and requires using wet abrasive blasting, hydro blasting, or vacuum blasting. However, the regulation allows for dry abrasive blasting using ARB Certified Abrasives for:

  • Window and door returns and frames
  • Eaves, overhangs, and ceilings
  • Sweep abrasive blasting of concrete. Sweep abrasive blasting is method of cleanup performed in order to achieve surface uniformity or impurity removal after wet blasting, hydro blasting, or vacuum blasting. This performance standard does not apply to stucco surfaces.
  • Completely shrouded structures and blast areas that effectively control emissions. This requirement also applies to concrete swimming pools.
  • Abrasive cleaning operations. This does not apply to aggregate exposure or paint removal related to new concrete construction or repair activity.
ARB Certified Abrasives

The Air Resources Board has certified dry abrasive products that comply with the performance standards set forth in §92530. Using non-certified abrasives for unconfined dry abrasive blasting is prohibited. Re-using or blending certified abrasives is generally not allowed unless demonstrated to the ARB that the abrasive materials conform to the specific performance standards.

Manufacturers, producers, vendors and suppliers of certified abrasives are required to permanently label the invoice, bill of lading, and abrasive packaging or container with the following information:

  • The Manufacturer’s name or identification trade name;
  • A product description including the grade, weight proportion of components in abrasive blends, brand name of the abrasive or brand names and grades of components of abrasive blends; and
  • The statement “ARB certified for permissible dry outdoor blasting”
Permits to Operate / Portable Equipment Registration

Prior to operating any abrasive blasting equipment, owners or operators are required to obtain a Permit to Operate issued by the District, per Rule 2010 – Permits Required, or a Portable Equipment Registration Certificate issued by the California Air Resources Board or the District. For more information on permitting or registering portable equipment, please contact the District's Small Business Assistance Program at the District office nearest you.


For buildings and other permanent structures, Rule 4002 – National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants requires an asbestos inspection be performed before undertaking a project that will result in disturbing the building materials, such as occurs from abrasive blasting. More information may be obtained by contacting the District’s Compliance Department or by visiting the District's Demolition and Renovation website.


Any abrasive blasting activity that generates emissions must not cause a nuisance, per Rule 4102 – Nuisance and §92210 of Title 17. This requirement would apply to the potential release of toxic air contaminants caused by the abrasive blasting activities, such as that from lead coatings. Therefore, it is important to monitor the emissions and, if necessary, plan for and implement the appropriate control measures to limit the public’s exposure.

Title 17, California Code of Regulations - Abrasive Blasting

Title 17, CCR – Abrasive Blasting includes:

  • Article 1: General Provisions
    • §92000: Definitions
    • §92100: Scope and Policy
  • Article 2: Prohibitions
    • §92200: Visible Emission Standards
    • §92210: Nuisance Prohibition
    • §92220: Compliance with Performance Standards
  • Article 3: Source Evaluation
    • §92400: Visible Emission Evaluation Techniques
  • Performance Standards
    • §92500: General Provisions
    • §92510: Pavement Marking
    • §92520: Stucco and Concrete
    • §92530: Certified Abrasives