In May of 2012, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) released a study which outlined concerns for the safety and health of those employed by oil and gas drilling companies who may be at risk for silicosis. Large quantities of silica sand are used during hydraulic fracturing (fracking) process.
Hydraulic fracturing, or hydro-fracking is a technology used in West Virginia in which drillers inject huge amounts of water and chemicals into shale layers that hold natural gas and oil. The high pressure breaks the rock, and then silica sand and other chemicals are injected in the cracks to allow the natural gas to be piped to the surface.
Sand is delivered by truck and loaded into sand movers and then transferred to conveyor belts. In the course of this process, silica dust is released into the air, causing a hazard to those employees involved in transporting and refilling silica sand into the sand movers, transfer belts, and blender hoppers where the sand is mixed with fracking fluids. NIOSH collected air samples at eleven hydraulic fracturing sites in five states, and many of these air samples showed silica levels which were above the level assumed to be safe for gas drilling workers.
Silica particles are about one-twentieth of the width of a human hair and are a known carcinogenic. Silicosis is a form of respiratory disease that results from inhaling silica dust. The microscopic fibers build up in the lung tissue, causing severe inflammation and scarring. Like similar toxic exposure diseases such as mesothelioma and asbestosis, silicosis often takes many years to develop into fatal respiratory symptoms. Chronic silicosis initially causes no symptoms, but symptoms may surface as long as fifteen to twenty years after silica dust exposure.
Common symptoms of silicosis include:
- shortness of breath
- severe cough
- Severe cough
If you have silica in your lungs, your body may not be able to fight infections well. This can lead to other illnesses that can cause:
- Weight loss
- Night sweats
- Chest pains
- Respiratory failure
As the disease progresses over time, these symptoms can become worse.
If you have been diagnosed with silicosis, or a loved one has died of silicosis after years of exposure on the job, you are entitled to seek compensation from the product manufacturer or company responsible for providing a safe workplace. The Robinette Legal Group has a proud record of successfully representing clients who have suffered occupational diseases after working in the mining, manufacturing and materials handling industries throughout West Virginia. Contact our offices to arrange a free consultation about your toxic exposure injury or wrongful death claim: 1-304-594-1800.