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A Fruit Too Low October 25, 2015

Posted by geoff in News.
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I normally like Instapundit’s take on things, but this time he was too tempted by what seemed to be low hanging fruit:

BUT REMEMBER, IT’S THE RIGHT WHO’S ANTI-SCIENCE: Sand Causes Cancer, Say British Fracktivists.
Green activists have found a new way to villainize hydraulic fracturing in Britain: claiming that sand, one essential component of the sluice pumped at high pressure into horizontal wells to “frack” shale, will give people cancer. . . .

By this logic, greens ought to be calling for the quarantining of beaches—to hear these activists tell it, the sand you’d be tanning on there would be as big a cancer risk as the UV rays you might be soaking up.

That’s cute, and it’s hard to resist the temptation to pile on with more jokes about vaginal cancer rates among fracktivists (‘cuz there’s sand in their ‘ginas, see?), but let’s look at reality.

  • Very fine, airborne silica particles can roughly double the lung cancer rates in people who have extended exposures
  • Fracking sand does contain very fine silica particles (where beach sand does not)
  • Fracking does result in airborne sand. From OSHA: “NIOSH identified seven primary sources of silica dust exposure during hydraulic fracturing operations:
    • Dust ejected from thief hatches (access ports) on top of the sand movers during refilling operations while the machines are running (hot loading).
    • Dust ejected and pulsed through open side fill ports on the sand movers during refilling operations
    • Dust generated by on-site vehicle traffic.
    • Dust released from the transfer belt under the sand movers.
    • Dust created as sand drops into, or is agitated in, the blender hopper and on transfer belts.
    • Dust released from operations of transfer belts between the sand mover and the blender; and
    • Dust released from the top of the end of the sand transfer belt (dragon’s tail) on sand movers.”
  • Of 116 air samples collected at various fracking sites around the country, NIOSH found that half exceeded OSHA’s Permissible Exposure Limit.

So there is a possible health risk due to fracking operations, if one is exposed for many, many years. It’s probably an exaggeration to call fracking sand a “toxic chemical,” as the Friends of the Earth did, but you can’t just laugh it off without seeming ignorant.

So sorry, all those great sand jokes will have to wait until dust mitigation efforts are shown to have solved the problem.

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