Letter: Silicosis isn't the new 'secondhand smoke'In “Port, look harder at sand shipment” (R-E, May 15) Rob Meyer states that unlike sand box sand, the sand out of Wisconsin is much more insidious and is analogous to asbestos with which, he says, it has mineral kinship.
By: John Litsenberger, The Republican Eagle
To the Editor:
In “Port, look harder at sand shipment” (R-E, May 15) Rob Meyer states that unlike sand box sand, the sand out of Wisconsin is much more insidious and is analogous to asbestos with which, he says, it has mineral kinship.
I understand Meyer’s concern is exposure to silica dust with potential complications of silicosis that can lead to lung cancers. However, the sand being brought in is processed, ready for insertion into the oil or gas well head. It gets washed to remove clays and fines, then dried to remove all moisture and finally screened to grade the sand into specific grain sizes for various fracking applications.
From the plant site, the sand is shipped in fully enclosed pneumatic trailers, consequently any dust is contained and not released to the atmosphere. Therefore, the public’s exposure to dust is limited to that kicked up by the tractor-trailer’s tires along the road.
And, as to those 75 truckloads per day, they’ve been rolling through Red Wing for two and a half years now.
Be it beach sand, or fracking sand, or sand box sand; they all contain silica. But it isn’t the individual grains that are a health risk; it is the respirable dust, which is a very fine, minus 10 microns in size. While true this inhaled dust can lead to the development of cancers, like mesothemeoma, silicosis is classified as an occupational illness. The reason being, of course, the exposures are much greater when one is working in these industries, typically mining and sand blasting.
Silicosis is not a new disease. It has been studied for over 100 years to better understand not just the health effects on industry employees but on the public as well. And, although I am no expert on this subject, I have done significant reading on it and I am unaware of any indication silica dust from mining and processing operations, or from truck traffic, poses a health risk to the general public.
Fracking sand is no more of a health hazard than sand box sand, the 75 trucks per day don’t represent increased traffic through town (it is already there), and silicosis is not the new “second-hand smoke.”
And one last thing, quartz is not in the asbestos family. Asbestos belongs to the vermiculite group which is hydrated silicates, has entirely different crystalline structure and with a mineral hardness of 2.5. Quartz is made up of SiO2, has a rhombohedral crystalline structure and a mineral hardness of 7.0.