Grainger.com, Lowes.com and NorthernTool.com carry safer sandblasting alternatives to sand. Because of the inherent risk of silicosis from using sand, most retailers only offer sand substitutes such as garnet, aluminum oxide, glass beads and corncobs.
According to OSHA, breathing the silica dust present in sand causes lungs to build up fluid and scar. They recommend using non-silica-based blast abrasives. Grainger.com has a large selection of aluminum oxide, garnet, corncobs and glass beads. NorthernTool.com carries these blast mediums in addition to walnut shells and bicarbonate soda. Lowes.com sells aluminum oxide and glass beads. Glass beads used for abrasives are made of soda lime glass, not silica glass. All mediums come in a variety of grit.