Fracking sand dust could pose a health risk to workers, according to a report from NPR. Workplace safety experts say the sand is basically silica, the breathing of which has long been known to cause respiratory problems such as silicosis and lung cancer.
Researchers from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health studied sand dust levels at 11 fracking sites in Arkansas, Colorado, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Texas. They found that 79 percent of the air samples collected exceeded recommended silica exposure levels. Though workers at the visited sites wore respirators, researchers say the masks likely don’t provide adequate protection against the levels reported.
The fracking process uses a mixture of water, chemicals and sand that’s pumped into the ground to create fractures in rock. Sand props the fractures open so that oil and gas can be released. On worksites, sand dust has been found to come off haulers, mixing stations and sand piles.