Concerns have been raised about the impact of frac sand mining on air quality. Mining, blasting, processing, and transportation of frac sand can generate silica dust, tiny particulate matter known in industry parlance as “fugitive dust.” When people inhale silica dust in excess quantities, especially freshly-fractured crystalline silica, they face severe health risks, such as silicosis or lung cancer.

The health risks of respirable crystalline silica have been known for many decades, and workplace exposure to silica dust is generally regulated. While the hazards of silicosis at work sites and enclosed settings are understood and regulated, “little conclusive information exists regarding sources, controls or levels of silica present in ambient air,” and no federal standard exists for public exposure to silica particulates (WI DNR 2011:2). In 2011, a group of concerned citizens, including numerous medical professionals and environmental health experts, petitioned the Wisconsin DNR to list respirable crystalline silica as a hazardous air pollutant, requesting that they develop both a baseline public exposure limit and an adequate method for specifically monitoring silica dust. The WI DNR declined.

UW-EC Environmental Health Research
The Environmental Public Health Program at UW-Eau Claire has been conducting research on the health risks of respirable silica dust. The project is directed by Dr. Crispin Pierce. 

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

EOG Air Quality Study
In late 2012, EOG Resources Inc. contracted John Richards of Air Control Techniques, P.C. to conduct a yearlong air quality study at its processing plant in Chippewa Falls and the DS mine in Cooks Valley.

Government Agency Reports and Presentations by Public Health Officials

Industry Documents

Non-Governmental Organizations and Concerned Citizens

News Reports and Blogs


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