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What is Crystalline Silica ?
Silica is a compound made of oxygen and silicon. Silica is in sand, rock and mineral ores. Silica exists in smooth and sharp forms. The sharp forms are called Crystalline Silica. Canadian Sand & Proppants (CSP) hopes to mine sandstone formations in Chippewa County that contain quartz silica sand. Quartz is silica in the Crystalline, or sharp, form.
SILICA SAND GRAINS are made up of crystalline silica particles. When silica sand grains are broken (fractured) from blasting, abrasion, or crushing, tiny particles of crystalline silica “dust” are produced. Some of these particles are so small they can't be seen with the naked eye, so light-weight they can stay in the air for a long time and can travel long distances. The technical term for these very small particles is......
RESPIRABLE CRYSTALLINE SILICA. These very tiny, sharp silica particles are small enough to be breathed deep into our lungs. Once they settle in the lungs, they never dissolve and never leave. Some people call Respirable Crystalline Silica “Silica Dust”.
Is it “silica dust” that is harmful to health, not the whole grains of Silica Sand ?
Yes! Whole Grains of sand are too big to breathe into our lungs, but silica dust is small enough to be inhaled. Scientists and health agencies call particles in the air Particulate Matter. Particles smaller than 10 microns are called PM10, and these are small enough to breathe into our lungs. Any particles of silica dust that are smaller than PM10 will be “breathable”, or “respirable”.
PM10 pollution in general can cause disease and increase risks to health. However, there
are special health concerns with silica dust smaller than PM10. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has determined that Respirable Crystalline Silica is a Carcinogen, or cancer causing substance. Prolonged or repeated exposure to fine airborne crystalline silica dust may cause severe scarring of the lungs, a disease called silicosis. Silicosis can develop quickly or over many years, depending upon the amount of silica a person breathes and for how long.
Exposure to silica dust can lead to obstructive pulmonary disease. It can create breathing problems for people who have asthma, emphysema, and other obstructive lung diseases. Because the dust never leaves the lungs, its sharp edges can continue to cause irritation and inflammation for many years to come. Disease may not show up until years later, even if a person is no longer breathing silica dust.
Children, the elderly, and people who already have health problems are more affected by silica dust, but anyone can be made ill by breathing this air pollutant.
There's always dust in the air......
Yes, but remember, you cannot see the dangerous sizes of silica dust. With mining planned for 50 years to come, there will always be freshly fractured, sharp-edged, crystalline silica dust in the air.
Expert toxicologists believe CSP will produce significant amounts of silica dust from mining, transporting, and processing operations.
I was told CSP only wants whole grains of sand, so there would not be any dust.
The sand in the sandstone formation is not just sitting there 100% “whole grain”, pre-washed sand. (Washing removes some of the silica dust.) All sizes of sand grains and particles are present. Blasting will be used to break up the cemented sandstone, and this will produce more silica dust at the mine site. Other contaminants may also be present.
Silica and other dust will escape as the unwashed and freshly mined sandstone is loaded onto trucks, transported, stockpiled, and as it travels over conveyors. Crushing operations at the Sand Plant will also produce crystalline silica dust. Yes, CSP wants a final product of washed, whole grain sand but they will not produce that final product without putting silica dust into the air, from the sand mine to the sand plant and beyond.
Will the DNR keep the air safe?
The Department of Natural Resources and the Environmental Protection Agency do not require mining companies to count the escaped (fugitive) dust when they predict how much PM10 and silica dust will be in the air. CSP does not want to do any accurate air monitoring. They are asking the DNR to take air monitoring requirements out of the Air Permit. Without air monitoring we will not know how much harmful dust is in the air.
The Wisconsin DNR has been weakened in recent years with budget and staff cuts. Also, Industry has successfully lobbied for laws that hinder the DNR's efforts to create and enforce stricter rules to protect the air.
Please get involved! Talk to elected
officials, your family and neighbors,
and Help Stop the Sand Plant !
This brochure was prepared by
Concerned Chippewa Citizens,
a grassroots group committed to:
Educating themselves and others
about the problems associated with
strip-mining of silica sand and the
establishment of a silica sand
processing plant in Chippewa Falls.
Taking appropriate actions to stop
the plan initiated by Canadian
Sand & Proppants, Inc and City Officials.
Information presented is accurate
to the best of our ability.
VISIT OUR WEBSITE: www.ccc-wis.com
Sources Used in Preparing this Brochure
Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety website:
OSHA fact sheet about quartz silica:
World Health Organization fact sheet:
National Toxicology Program, Department of Human Health and Services- Report on Carcinogens, 11th Edition:
OSHA Silica Advisor
Published with help from:
Occupational Safety and Health Administration ( OSHA)
Examples of American Occupational Silica Warnings
Mining Safety and Health Administration