Airborne Particulates Around Frac Sand Plants Using EPA-Certified Instruments
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Environmental exposure to airborne pollutants, notably fine particulates (PM2.5 and smaller) and crystalline silica (quartz) is of growing concern in western Wisconsin due to the expansion of industrial sand mining for hydraulic fracturing. Exposures to PM2.5 are associated with cardiovascular and lung disease while exposures to crystalline silica are associated with lung diseases such as silicosis, silicotuberculosis, and lung cancer, as well as nonmalignant renal and autoimmune diseases. This research constitutes the third phase of direct-reading, filter-based, and now EPA-certified instrument use to measure fine particulates around industrial silica sand (frac sand) mines, processing, and loading facilities in Wisconsin. Consistent with results from the first two phases,PM2.5 particulate levels were higher than regional DNR background levels. The most recent data show average PM2.5 concentrations of 9 μg/m3 in Bloomer, Wisconsin and 16.9 μg/m3 in New Auburn, WI, compared to the EPA average annual standard for PM2.5 of 12 μg/m3.