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.
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.
- Walters, Kristin, Jeron Jacobson, Zachary Kroening, and Crispin Pierce. 2015. PM2.5 Airborne Particulates Near Frac Sand Operations. Journal of Environmental Health 78(4):8-12.
- Links to presentations by Dr. Pierce about the public health concerns presented by silica dust.
- Watch an interview with Dr. Pierce about his research. "New study examines quality of air at mining sites." Wisconsin Public Television Here and Now, February 1, 2013.
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.
- Richards, John and Todd Brozell. 2015. Assessment of Community Exposure to Ambient Respirable Crystalline Silica near Frac Sand Processing Facilities. Atmosphere 6(8):960-982.
- Richards, John. 2012 (October 24). Ambient Crystalline Silica. Air Control Techniques, P.C.
- Presentation slides addressing the EOG study, November 5, 2012.
Government Agency Reports and Presentations by Public Health Officials
- Hart, Kristin. 2012. Air Pollution Requirements for Industrial Sand Mines. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Publication AM-491, June 8.
- OSHA. 2002. Crystalline Silica Exposure Health Hazard Information: OSHA Fact Sheet. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, US Department of Labor.
- Respirable Crystalline Silica from Sand Mining. Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
- WI DNR. 2011 (August). Silica Study: Report to the Natural Resources Board. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Publication AM-401.
- Yingling, Ginny. 2012. Health Concerns with Frac Sand Mining. Minnesota Environmental Health Association (MEHA) Winter Conference, January 31.
- WISA. 2013. Crystalline Silica. Wisconsin Industrial Sand Association. May.
Non-Governmental Organizations and Concerned Citizens
- EWG. 2014. Danger in the Air: Health Concerns for Silica in Outdoor Air. Environmental Working Group, September 25.
- Rundquist, Soren and Bill Walker. 2014. Danger in the Air: Silica Particles from Frac Sand Mining Put Tens of Thousands at Risk. Environmental Working Group, September 24.
- MEA. Citizens challenge DNR's air permit for Preferred Sands, LLC. Midwest Environmental Advocates, July 8, 2013.
- Petition by Citizens for the Promulgation of Rules to Govern Respirable Crystalline Silica Emissions. Before the State of Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, 2011.
News Reports and Blogs
- Knight, Joe. UW-Eau Claire group monitors sand mines, reportedly finds high particulate levels. Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, November 22, 2014.
- Kremer, Rich. Fewer than 10 percent of frac sand operations monitor air particulate levels. Wisconsin Public Radio News, November 13, 2014.
- Kremer, Rich. High levels of super-fine dust are detected around Wisconsin frac sand mines. Wisconsin Public Radio News, November 11, 2014.
- Vetter, Chris. New Auburn schools invest in air filters to stop sand particles from circulating. The Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, October 31, 2013.
- Dirr, Alison. Frac sand health fears rise as mining booms in Wisconsin. Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, October 6, 2013.
- Greenhouse, Steven. New Rules Would Cut Silica Dust Exposure. The New York Times, August 23, 2013.
- Prengaman, Kate. New studies measure air, water impacts of frac sand mines. Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, March 3, 2013.
- Gunderman, Mark. DNR denies crystalline silica petition from area residents. The Chippewa Herald, February 1, 2012.
- Grossman, Elizabeth. Frack sand mining boom: silica dust, air quality, and human health. The Pump Handle, ScienceBlogs, June 14, 2012.
- Peeples, Lynne. Fracking Sand May Pose Health Hazards to Workers, Residents. Huffington Post, November 16, 2012.