“If it’s silica, it’s not just dust.” This is Dr. Wayne Feyereisn of Mayo Clinic’s message regarding the health risks associated with frac sand mining.
Proponents of frac sand mining claim silica dust is the same as dust from local sand and gravel pit quarries. Not only different in duration and volume, it’s much more harmful to our health.
Multiple sizes of silica sand can come out of the mining process, much of it (up to 50 percent) so fine our lungs cannot clear it and the silica goes into the air sacs of the lungs. Our bodies have special cells, called macrophages, to clear anything getting into these air sacs, although there is a limit to the amount that can be cleared. When the limit is exceeded the macrophage dies and scar tissue is formed. This irreversible scarring limits the lungs’ expansion and oxygen exchange and leads to silicosis.
Silicosis takes 20 to 60 years to develop; therefore, it may not affect us as much as it could our children.
Silica is a Class 1 carcinogen, known to cause cancer. Silica also has been shown to cause an array of autoimmune diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, IgA nephropathy and scleroderma.
With health risks as great as these, standards must be set along with air monitoring around mines, trucking routes, railroad loading spurs and processing plants. Or better yet, not allow such operations that put our health and our children’s health in jeopardy.