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Health risks in fracking sand, says OSHA

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has issued an alert in conjunction with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) that warns workers about prolonged exposure to dust containing high levels of crystalline silica, which can be breathed in through the nose and mouth. Workplace injury leading to lung disease could result from exposure to the silica.

Breathable crystalline silica has been identified as a cause of lung disease and lung cancer and linked to conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, tuberculosis, kidney disease and autoimmune disease. Workers' compensation claims could result from workplaces that don't protect employees from breathing in crystalline silica. The material is commonly associated with the fracking sand common to certain oil and gas industry projects.

The alert was issued in a 2012 OSHA/NIOSH joint study on fracking. Air samples were collected and analyzed from sites in Texas, Arkansas, Colorado, Pennsylvania and North Dakota. The examination of the 116 resulting samples showed risks to workers' health: 79 percent showed exposures higher than NIOSH's permissible limit, which is lower than the one used by OSHA. Still, even OSHA's higher allowable limit was exceeded by 47 percent of the samples in the survey. In fact, a full 9 percent of samples showed workers could be exposed to silica at a rate 10 times that of OSHA's limit. One sample was much higher, at 25 times the agency's permissible amount.

Unsafe working conditions, workplace injuries, diseases caused by workplace conditions and other job-related health issues can have devastating results for workers and their families. An attorney experienced in litigating workers' compensation cases may be able to help those affected by hazards on the job by arranging compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other damages.

Source: Coshocton Tribune, "OSHA warns of fracking sand danger", Hannah Sparling, July 26, 2013

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