Midwest Environmental Advocates is a nonprofit environmental law center that works for healthy water, air, land and government for this generation and the next. We believe that every citizen has the potential to make a difference.

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Fast Facts on Frac Sand Mining: Silica Dust, Air Quality and Our Health

Apr 07, 2014

How does silica dust impact our health?

  • Silica dust is a known carcinogen, according to the latest update in the 2014 report on carcinogens by the National Institute of Health. Silica dust is produced by frac sand mining operations as a waste byproduct. Most studies are on sillicosis and cancer linked to occupational exposure, but the report acknowledges that "residents near quarries and sand and gravel operations potentially are exposed to respirable crystalline silica."
  • Breathing silica dust causes silicosis, a serious and incurable lung condition that causes scarring in the lungs, difficulty breathing, and in some cases, death.
  • Silicosis also causes severe cough and weakness. It hinders the body’s ability to fight infections, leaving the patient vulnerable to other illnesses that can cause chest pains and respiratory failure.

How do people come in contact with silica dust in the air?

Is the government regulating frac sand mining and protecting our air?

Other resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health – Workplace Safety and Health Topic: Silica

Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Air and Radiation – Basics on air quality and particle pollution

University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire, Watershed Institute for Collaborative Environmental Studies – Health effects of particulate matter and silica exposure


/ tagged: air, frac sand, frac