Silica is a ubiquitous mineral-- most sand is silica-- found in abundance almost everywhere. It has long been known to cause respiratory problems when people are exposed to large quantities, and industrial sources of silica pollution are particularly problematic.
Most industrial silica is in the form of the crystal quartz. Freshly crushed quartz particles are sharper and more dangerous than aged quartz [1,2,3]. The most dangerous particles are those smaller than 5μm in diameter, and while quartz is tough and hard to break into sizes smaller than 10μm, industrial processes can produce an abundance of sub 5μm particles [4,5].
For these reasons, we're interested in monitoring particles of silica, especially around sand mining operations, which have increased to support the fracking industry.
- Environmental Protection Agency. Ambient levels and noncancer health effects of inhaled crystalline and Amorphous silica: Health issue assessment. Triangle Park: US EPA; 1996. EPA/600/R-95/115: Chapter 1.
Vallyathan V. Generation of oxygen radicals by minerals and its correlation to cytotoxicity. Environ Health Perspect. 1994;102(Suppl 10):111–5. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
Vallyathan V, Shi XL, Dalal NS, Irr W, Castrinova V. Generation of free radicals from freshly fractured silica dust. Potential role in acute silica-induced lung injury. Am Rev Respir Dis. 1988;138:1213–9. [PubMed]
Bhagia LJ, Parikh DJ, Saiyed HN. Ambient silica monitoring in vicinity of agate industry, Khambhat, India. Indian J Occup Hyg Safety. 2007;1:6–10.
Bhagia LJ, Sadhu HG, Parikh DJ, Karnik AB, Saiyed HN. Prevention, Control and Treatment of Silicosis and Silico-Tuberculosis in Agate Industry Report submitted by National Institute of Occupational Health, Ahmedabad to Indian Council of Medical Research and the Ministry of Health and Family welfare, Government of India. 2004