Silica dust raises health concerns
I spoke at the County Zoning Committee hearing concerning potential health risks of sand mining and want to respond briefly to the rebuttal comments of Bob Glenn, the man paid by the mine company to speak about silicosis.
Silicosis is the disease known to be caused by the inhalation of fine, microscopic silica that is called Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS).
As the hour was growing late, and my goal was to present the petition signed by 33 doctors, nurses and health care professionals from Waupaca County, who share concern about the mine, I choose not to try address Mr. Glenn’s presentation.
However he distorted my words in his rebuttal and I would like to make a couple clarifications.
During his testimony he showed a slide, the EPA pie chart of the sources of silica.
That slide was used in a misleading way as it made it appear that because we have silica all over the face of the earth and only 1 percent is from mining, we should be unconcerned.
He implied that driving down a gravel road or plowing a field on a dusty day is equally dangerous as exposure from mining.
This is simply not true.
The kind of dust that comes from a farm field or gravel road contains only very, very tiny amounts of the kind of fine, microscopic silica that is call Respirable Crystalline Silica.
I did say that studies have been done, and the reason all the studies are done in mining or occupational settings, is that the more highly toxic RCS is released when stone is fractured, stone that has been in the earth for thousands of years.
Thus, our petition states clearly that it is “the increased toxicity of freshly-fractured silica” and the lack of studies in infants, the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions in a non-industrial setting that concerns us.
Mr. Glenn was right when he said this fine, pollen-like dust floats through the air.
He conjectured that it could be a part of a worldwide dust cloud.
But we are only concerned with that unseen, pollen like dust that could, on a windy day be inhaled by those citizens in a 10-20 mile radius of the mine.
We just want a good study that is reassuring to public health.
As I said in my testimony; for many years tobacco industry science experts told us second-hand smoke was fine, and asbestos experts said exposure was only a problem in industrial settings; we know now there was not enough information to be reassured.
Our petition is simply asking for a good study about public health risk to Respirable Crystalline Silica before increased sand mining is considered.