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home : opinions : letters to the editor   May 24, 2016

6/14/2014 8:42:00 AM
Letters to the editor: Not your average dust

The onslaught of silica sand mining operations in La Salle County has raised valid concerns about air contamination and its adverse effects on human health. The enemy is not what you can see; it is what you cannot, something known as silica dust. So what do we understand about these particles of dust, and under which circumstances do they pose a risk to human health and the community?

The danger lies in the fine, freshly fractured particles of silica; i.e., granules less than 4 microns in diameter. This is not your farmer’s crop dust. Once inhaled, these particles have been clinically proven to produce long-term health problems including asthma, cardiovascular disease, kidney and autoimmune diseases, lung cancer, and silicosis. Silica dust is similar to asbestos exposure. This deadly dust, like asbestos, burrows deep into the lungs causing fatal, irreversible scarring over time. Despite worker protections, according to a 2001 article printed in Cancer Causes & Control, an analysis of 44,160 mineworkers showed 663 suffered lung cancer deaths, clearly indicating a substantial exposure-response correlation between cumulative silica exposure and lung cancer mortality.

OSHA requires protections for sand mining and processing plant workers, but neither Illinois nor the federal government regulate silica dust for individuals and families living next to sand mining operations; i.e., mining, processing, and transporting. A child’s susceptibility to silica is much greater than that of an adult. Since children have smaller airways and breathe more air, silica’s effect on the airways and alveoli in children is likely greater than that in adults exposed to the same concentration.

Silica dust has been classified as a human lung carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, National Toxicology Program, California Proposition 65, and American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists. Additionally, OSHA and NIOSH label silica as a cancer hazard.

Statistics show that La Salle County residents have an 80 percent higher risk of cancer versus other counties in the U.S. due to hazardous air pollutants consistent with a Scorecard report. If the county does not mandate health-based standards based on exposure to bio-cumulative impact of air-borne silica related to mining operations, that number would increase each year.

Please join us for the County Zoning Board hearing held at the Ottawa Knights of Columbus Hall on June 19 at 5 p.m. for the sake of the community’s health and well being for generations to come.

Ashley Williams,

Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, June 14, 2014
Article comment by: jimshooes

I just love to see the parroting of statistics that are compiled just for the purpose of shocking people into thinking that something is bad... and we need to have more regulations and more government to protect us from the evils.

... Less than 4 microns... sheeeze.

... don't admit that any dust...(farm dust too) will contain things that will cause harm to humans...
the labels on the chemicals say so...

But I'd like you to consider this... all the gravel roads in the county are made of limestone and silica..
and their dust is more of a silicate health hazard... than the mining...

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