Eau Claire (WQOW) - The federal government says it has no plans to conduct a new health assessment for respirable crystalline silica.
That statement came from a recent letter sent by the Environmental Protection Agency to the Eau Claire City-County Board of Health. In February, the board asked the EPA to establish a federal emission standard for crystalline silica, in light of the rapid development of frac sand mining in our area. Sand mining is a source of crystalline silica, which can cause silicosis, a lung disease.
In that letter, the board said, "Although crystalline silica is widely used in industry and has long been recognized as a major occupational hazard, capable of causing disability and deaths among workers in several industries, it has now become a huge public concern in our state and community with respect to non occupational or ambient silica exposure."
In a response, the EPA said, "We understand your community's concerns with the health effects of respirable crystalline silica and appreciate your bringing this matter to our attention. As part of the periodic review of the PM (particulate matter) standards, in 2009, the EPA completed an Integrated Science Assessment providing a concise summary of the health and environmental effects associated with PM. This assessment included consideration of the available scientific information for specific PM components, such as silica. The Integrated Science Assessment concluded that while many PM components can be linked with differing health effects, the evidence is not yet sufficient to allow differentiation of those constituents or sources that are more closely related to specific health outcomes."
However, the EPA is considering revising its ambient air quality standards. The government does this every five years or so. It's now taking public comments before considering any changes. When it last reviewed standards five years ago, the EPA held three public hearings and received more than 120,000 written comments.