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Silica Research at UWEC

Particulate and silica health risk research being conducted by Dr. Crispin Pierce and students in the Environmental Public Health Program has the following aims:

  1. Review previous research and exposure standards for environmental and workplace exposure to "simple" or "nuisance" dust, particulate matter (PM10, PM4, PM2.5, and "respirable" dust particles), and crystalline silica (quartz)
  2. Record GPS coordinates, wind speed and direction, particulate matter (mass concentration and particle concentration), and crystalline silica concentration, and photograph locations surrounding Wisconsin sand mining, transporting and processing plants.
  3. Report measured particulate matter and crystalline silica concentrations and recommended exposure standards to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, industry, concerned citizens, and the environmental health community (through conference presentations and peer-reviewed publications).

Research Questions

We are using a DustTrak 8520 aerosol monitor and an SKC DPS gravimetric monitor, and reviewing DNR- and industry-generated data to address the following questions:

  1. Are particulate pollution levels around sand mining, transporting and processing plants above the EPA 35 microgram/m3 24-hour or 12 microgram/m3 annual standards for PM2.5 (particles 2.5 micrometers and smaller)?
  2. Are crystalline silica levels around these plants site above a nominal 3 ug/m3 exposure standard set by the State of California?
  3. Which factors (wind speed and direction, degree of plant activity, precipitation, etc.) are associated with increased PM2.5 levels?

This study benefits from collaboration of UW-Eau Claire faculty and students with the Concerned Chippewa Citizens community group and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Research Answers

A 1995 American Cancer Society study, 2002 follow-up, and published 2012 study of six cities found that each 10-microgram per-cubic-meter increase in long-term average PM2.5 concentration was associated with a 4-14% increased risk of death from all natural causes, a 6-26% increased risk of death from cardiopulmonary/cardiovascular disease, and an 8-37% increased risk of death from lung cancer. 

Full silica sampling details

Sand Mining Research

Faculty and students, at UWEC, along with community partners, conduct research on silica sand mining and the possible environmental and health effects it has on the community. This research is very beneficial for the community and students' experience.

More here
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