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Health Consequences of Energy Choices: Risks from Frac Sand Mining for Oil and Gas Extraction. Crispin Pierce, Ph.D. MREA Energy Fair, June 19, 2010. UW-Eau Claire Environmental Public Health. Our Outstanding Students. Outline.
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Crispin Pierce, Ph.D.
MREA Energy Fair, June 19, 2010
The Use of Fracturing (“Frac”) Sand for Oil And Natural Gas Extraction.
Wisconsin Locations of Current and Proposed Frac Sand Mines and Processing Plants.
Health Effects Associated with Sand Mining and Processing.
Comparison of Oil/Gas Health Risks to Those from Other Sources of Energy
"Fracturing" (frac) sand is used in the extraction of gas and oil from shale formations.
The sand, along with water and chemicals, is injected under high pressure to fracture the shale for extraction.
Wisconsin has highly-prized sand for this purpose, with a high content of crystalline silica.
Existing: Maiden Rock, Taylor, Portage, Fairwater, Menomonie
Proposed or in construction: Chippewa Falls, Marshfield, Preston/Blair
Discussion Stage: Town of Arland, Town of Almena
FOCUS: Airborne pollutants that can be inhaled.
Waterborne pollutants that can be ingested.
Noise pollution that can be heard.
Light pollution that can be seen.
Truck traffic that affects rural road safety.
Increased respiratory symptoms, such as irritation of the airways, coughing, or difficulty breathing, for example;
Decreased lung function;
Development of chronic bronchitis;
Nonfatal heart attacks; and
Premature death in people with heart or lung disease.
The mining and processing activities generate PM through mining, blasting, transporting, processing, and storing the “frac sand” and “waste sand” in large piles.
The “waste sand” has more of the very small “fines” and so is more dangerous.
Diesel trucks and trains emit small particles that also cause cancer.
Silicosis –a fibrosis (scarring) of the lungs. Silicosis is progressive and leads to disability and death.
About 200 people in the US will die this year due to workplace exposure to silica (NIOSH 2008).
Many more will die with silicosis as a contributing factor.
SOURCE: National Center for Health Statistics multiple cause of death data. Population estimates from U.S. Bureau of the Census.
Tuberculosis – Silicosis increases the risk of tuberculosis.
Autoimmune and Chronic Kidney Disease – Some studies show excess numbers of cases of scleroderma, connective tissue disorders, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic kidney diseases and end-stage kidney disease.
Non-Malignant Respiratory Diseases (other than Silicosis) – Some studies show an increased incidence in chronic bronchitis and emphysema in workers.
“Silica is in all agricultural soils, so it can’t be risky.”
Silica is a natural component of soils. However, the “freshly-fractured” silica from mining and processing operations appears to be about 2-5 times more toxic than the “weathered” silica from soils .
“The particulates from sand are just like wood smoke, nothing to be concerned about.”
The specific size and shape of crystalline silica particles make them especially dangerous (like asbestos).
Most of the dangerous crystalline silica is in the cement that holds the sand grains together in the sandstone formation.
Blasting and digging in this formation, as well as transporting, crushing, sifting and pouring of the sand grains create airborne crystalline silica.
Beach sand is wet – it takes new high-capacity wells to control the many sources of dry sand/silica dust.
Dust emissions for many processes are not considered by the DNR. These include,
The Department of Natural Resources admits that crystalline silica is a human carcinogen, but is not regulating it as a hazardous air pollutant (NR 445). DNR was required to provide a report by July 1, 2006 but has not yet done so. A study has now begun.
There are few silica exposure limits for the general public. However, the State of California has adopted a level of 3 ug/m3 as safe.
The DNR estimated a maximum concentration of silica from the Chippewa Falls plant of 4 ug/m3 (even without considering “fugitive” dust). However, DNR staff took the position that silica cannot be regulated at this time.
The Trempealeau County Environment and Land Committee set a “goal” of 30 ug/m3 PM10 for the Preston/Blair sand plant.
Diesel exhaust from truck traffic is carcinogenic.
Sensitive receptors (children, elderly, those living in health care facilities) should be considered.
Haddad and Dones, IAEA
Crispin H. Pierce, Ph.D.
Associate Professor / Program Director
Department of Public Health Professions
University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire
Eau Claire, WI 54702-4004
(715) 836-5589 firstname.lastname@example.org