Health Risks from Particulate Matter Air PollutionRelated to Frac Sand Mining and Processing
By way of introduction, I am a medical doctor and have been a faculty presenter andregular attendee at the annual Making the Connection conference jointly sponsored bythe University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Physicians for SocialResponsibility, the Wisconsin Environmental Health Network, and others. I am also acurrent resident of Fillmore County, Minnesota and an asthmatic. Accordingly, I haveboth a professional and keen personal interest in the adverse health effects of respirable airborne pollutants.From this perspective, I would respectfully bring to the attention of those deliberating theregulation of frac sand mining and processing the following summary points, largelybased upon important research being carried out by Dr. Crispin Pierce at the Universityof Wisconsin – Eau Claire, and presented at the Making the Connection 2013conference earlier this month.1.Fact: Of the several health risks with frac sand, exposure to respirable particulatematter (PM) is arguably of greatest concern.
problems from exposure to PMinclude difficulty in breathing, decreased lung function, aggravated asthma,bronchitis, cardiac arrhythmias (irregular heart beat), heart attacks, lung cancer, andpremature deaths. The incidence of such problems increases linearly with length of time of exposure and the concentration of PM in the air.2.Fact: Particle size is important. While visible dust may be annoying, it is onlyparticles of less than or equal to 2.5 micrometer diameter PM
(which includescrystalline silica) that are able to reach the lung alveoli (the delicate air sacs deep inthe lung where gas exchange occurs) and cause damage.3.Fact: There is poor correlation between concentration measurements of larger particulate matter, e.g., PM
, and the health-hazardous PM
. One cannot correlatepresence or absence of observable dust with concentration of respirable PM.4.Fact: Frac sand mining and processing generate PM through blasting, loading,hauling, crushing, and transporting. For example, “fence line” measurements of PM
carried by Dr. Pierce and his team out at the Chippewa Falls processing plantshowed concentrations consistently exceeding the EPA standard for annualexposure, from the start of plant construction through full operation. On one samplingday, with slight wind and regular truck and train activity, measured fence line levelsexceeded the EPA standard for 24 hour exposure, and remote monitoring some 15miles distant showed levels exceeding the standard for annual exposure.5.Fact: Our local sand largely comprises large coarse grains. This is the sand covetedby industry and from a health perspective may also be considered “good sand.” Inthe processing of mined sand, this good sand is what is kept by the industry. Theleftover waste is concentrated small grain sand. From a health perspective, waste