From: Rich Budinger
Wisconsin Industrial Sand Association
A UW-Eau Claire professor and his students recently made headlines for monitoring air quality around local industrial sand sites. Without knowing the full story, however, their class project may cause readers undue concern about an industry that has operated safely and successfully in the Badger State for more than a century.
Silica in the form of quartz is the second most common substance in the earth’s crust and is present everywhere, in most dirt, sand, gravel and rocks. It is incorporated in many common materials – for example, the concrete, bricks, tile, paint, countertops and other items found in our homes probably contain silica. It is in the air, everywhere, all the time. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that quarries contribute less than 1 percent of the silica dust in the environment; most comes from dirt roads, paved roads, agricultural activities and construction.
Potential adverse health effects associated with exposure to sand dust are classified as occupational diseases. That’s why sand companies are highly regulated and why we use rigorous monitoring, regular health evaluations and sophisticated emission-control technology to protect employees – and, by extension, the public. Occupational instances of silicosis and other health impacts have dramatically declined in recent years, and there has never been a reported non-occupational health impact from environmental exposure to respirable crystalline silica in the United States.
The EPA and the Wisconsin DNR have both concluded that by complying with stringent state and federal standards, industrial sand companies are protecting the public against potential silica health effects. The facts bear this out, and this is why the Wisconsin Industrial Sand Association (WISA) supports strict enforcement of these existing standards.
On behalf of the members and Friends of WISA, I want the public to know that air quality and the health and safety of employees and neighbors is a top priority for our members. Vigilance and adherence to strict rules and regulations is part of the reason sand mining has lasted more than 100 years here and continues to be an important industry, solid economic contributor and good neighbor in Wisconsin.