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Part Two – What is Silica and Why is it so Dangerous?

Fri, 02/14/2014 - 11:48 -- Donny Beaver

Comprehensive Guide to Minimizing Respirable Silica Dust Exposure in Hydraulic Fracturing 

Part Two – What is Silica and Why is it so Dangerous?

Silica is one of the most common elements on earth.  Unfortunately, respirable silica dust (the silica dust that you can’t see) can be very hazardous and cause silicosis, cancer and other illnesses and disorders. Silicosis was recognized by the ancient Greeks & Romans to cause respiratory problems for quarry workers and stonecutters.  Over the centuries it has been called potter’s rot, grinder’s asthma and pneumoconiosis (“dust in the lungs”.)  The modern term of “silicosis” was reportedly coined about 1870. Respirable silica dust is generated by many different industrial activities including mining, drilling, polishing, sandblasting, hydraulic fracturing, concrete- and granite-cutting.  When tiny silica dust shards are inhaled (this is the invisible respirable silica dust), they often become imbedded deep into the aveolar sacs of the lungs (where oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged). Unfortunately, the lungs cannot expel respirable silica dust through coughing or mucous.  In response to the tiny silica dust shards remaining in the lungs, macrophages (an army of tiny defense warriors in the lungs) attempt to ingest the little shards, but because they cannot be consumed, inflammation erupts.  This process causes fibroblasts to flare up and produces collagen that surrounds the tiny shards, thereby creating excessive fibrous connective tissue.  The ensuing fibrosis diminishes lung function and capacity. Silicosis is progressive, irreversible and incurable.  As silicosis progresses, shortness of breath begins to occur and clinical tests will reveal a poor exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide.  In later stages the patient may experience persistent coughing, fatigue, extreme shortness of breath and even complete respiratory failure. Other health issues involved with excessive exposure to respirable silica dust can include tuberculosis, COPD, kidney failure, autoimmune disease and congestive heart failure (due to the heart having to work hard to make up for lack of lung function.)  Because of these facts, it’s very important not to be exposed to too much silica dust (especially in one’s respiratory zone around the face, head and neck.  To view a video on silicosis please go to this link: This document is Part Two in a series called, “The Comprehensive Guide to Minimizing Respirable Silica Dust Exposure in Hydraulic Fracturing” produced by HalenHardy.

Coming Next:  Part Three – Deadly Dust from Antiquity Stirs Up in Modern Age

© 2013 Donald Beaver – HalenHardy, LLC – All rights reserved. HalenHardy LLC, specializes in protecting workers from airborne dangerous dusts and operates from its headquarters in Bellwood, PA, near the epicenter of Marcellus Shale exploration & production region.  Our innovative MASHH Mobile Air Showers by HalenHardy protect workers by removing hazardous dust from their clothing. HalenHardy is the founding member of the Clean Team Dust Alliance, a group of companies focused on substantially reducing respirable silica dust exposures in the Oil & Gas Exploration & Production industry.

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