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The widening war on...sand

When I wrote about Propublica's rather dishonest rebranding of sand as "crystalline silica" the other day, I thought what I'd stumbled across was just a particularly egregious example of the green tactic of making everything sound scary in the hope that somebody will be convinced.

Not a bit of it.

Writing at Forbes, Christopher Helman reveals that there is a fullscale environmentalist war front directed at sand mining. And not only that, but it appears to have had some effect.

Towns like Winona, Minn are now facing calls for the monitoring of silica dust and diesel fumes emitted by the sand mines. There’s a real concern that when tiny particles of airborne silica are inhaled and get lodged in the lungs they could lead to silicosis.

Just this week Trempealeau County, Wisconsin, home to more new sand mines than anywhere else in the country, has imposed a year-long moratorium on issuing new mine permits while it studies health impacts.

I'm not at all convinced that the "concerns" are genuine. Like the environmentalist "concerns" over microseismic events, they appear to take form only when associated with fracking. Sand has, after all, been mined without controversy for quite a long time and the type used as a fracking proppant seems about as far removed from a risk of silicosis as it's possible to get. It's therefore hard for any reasonable person to conclude that these "concerns" are built on anything other than a fervent belief in the evils of capitalism.

Expect to hear about this latest "controversy" in the pages of the Guardian and on the news programmes of the BBC in due course.

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Reader Comments (29)

Next they're going to ban deserts ... can't have dust storms of fine silica sand, somebody might have an adverse reaction.

Aug 27, 2013 at 8:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterStreetcred

Few days before this sand stuff I got worried about undersea salt mining and just maybe the sea(s) might cave in. Consumption of large amounts of salt is hazardous I seem to that on a packet(s) somewhere yet?

Should I report it to the Guardian/EU ? It is a concern you know, and a few words on it can only be helpful, perhaps profitable.

Aug 27, 2013 at 8:57 AM | Unregistered Commenterex - Expat Colin

This suggests yet again the benefit to Society of a cull of stupid lefties......

Sorry, tautology......

Aug 27, 2013 at 9:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlecM

And this concern extends to disel fumes?

Would those be the same diesel fumes that are being emitted by an increasing number of diesel cars on the road as people respond to higher taxes on unleaded petrol and car tax regimes that heavily favour diesel engines? All initiated or supported by your friendly "Green" lobb group?

Aug 27, 2013 at 9:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeckko

That's it , ban seaside holidays. Ban seasides. Everyone retreat to the UK green belt.

Aug 27, 2013 at 9:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

Don't tell the greenies about all the limestone quarries we have. Everywhere around limestone quarries is white from the dust that is created. And what about those occasions when we get coated with dust blown from the Sahara. Millions are at risk from these hazards. We should all be issued with dust masks to wear at all times, otherwise we're all going to die.

Buy dust mask futures is my advice.

Aug 27, 2013 at 9:25 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

"It's therefore hard for any reasonable person to conclude that these "concerns" are built on anything other than a fervent belief in the evils of capitalism"

No, actually; they are built on sand.

Sorry; couldn't resist.

Aug 27, 2013 at 9:29 AM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

@ ex - Expat Colin

...Consumption of large amounts of salt is hazardous I seem to that on a packet(s) somewhere yet?

The big study in this field is DASH. Again, a scaremongering item exaggerating the dangers of salt (an essential nutrient) in the diet. The medical activists treat NaCl in exactly the same way as CO2.

Charles MacKay put his finger right on the button in 1840 - humans en mass DO go mad...

Aug 27, 2013 at 9:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

An awful lot of politicians are going to be in trouble now that they can no longer bury their heads in the sand.

Aug 27, 2013 at 9:41 AM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia
Aug 27, 2013 at 9:45 AM | Registered CommenterPhilip Richens

Here in Surrey, we get Saharan sand deposited on the car occasionally in summer. I'm thinking of suing Algeria for the long term health impact.

Aug 27, 2013 at 9:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterNeil McEvoy

Does it seem to others that we are not only listening to lunatics, but we are acting on their advice? I certainly believe this to be the case.

Aug 27, 2013 at 9:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Stroud

Patrick Moore; "But after six years as one of five directors of Greenpeace International, I observed that none of my fellow directors had any formal science education. They were either political activists or environmental entrepreneurs. Ultimately, a trend toward abandoning scientific objectivity in favor of political agendas forced me to leave Greenpeace in 1986."

Its not about silicosis. It is about obtaining control by the self-anointed.

Aug 27, 2013 at 9:56 AM | Unregistered Commenterssat

I suggest we need an additional definition of sandbagging. ie:- An argument from a position of weakness.

Aug 27, 2013 at 10:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterPMT

Its that di-hydrogen monoxide which worries me...

Aug 27, 2013 at 1:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid

Why are FOE, GP and WWF so against fracking? Just think, when our large transport vehicles and buses are fuelled by cheap methane we will see all those dirty,black carbon particles from diesel engines removed from Oxford Street.

Think of the children! Frack for Clean Air!

Maybe they haven't noticed. Maybe they think it's better to be dependent on the goodwill of Saudi Arabia and Russia for our energy supplies. Hmmmm. Now why ever could that be? Follow the money? It is known that CND was funded by the KGB, and Greenpeace grew out of that motley collection of malicious innocents, fellow-travellers and useful idiots.

Think of the children! Frack to keep us out of Middle East wars!

We can't go on like this.

Aug 27, 2013 at 1:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterJlian Flood

This is of course the perfect (ir)rationale behind 'recycling' bottles by grinding them (at ludicrous expense) back into sand*. We can use it for fracking instead of mining those precious, limited and therefore, ahem, unsustainable natural reserves... because when they're all used up a third of the Earth's crust will simple be gone**

*Oh, hang on a minute, that means that it'll be *synthetic* sand.

**Er, into a landfill, I guess.

Someday we'll look back and laugh, won't we?

Aug 27, 2013 at 1:56 PM | Registered Commenterflaxdoctor

Neurotics build castles in the air.
Environmentalists live in them.
The media charges the rent.

Aug 27, 2013 at 2:27 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Many surface mines use pressurized water to mine the sand, so that there is no dust generated (there are studies that have measured the relatively trivial amounts generated) in much the same way as clay is mined in the UK.

Aug 27, 2013 at 3:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterHeading Out

Paper dust is quite insidious. (I only link to Scientific American as a joke)

"paper dust can be a hazard to postal workers, causing and exacerbating respiratory problems. Sorting machines could also theoretically disperse contaminants (such as anthrax) intentionally sent through the mail into postal facilities, further adding to the risk of the job."

"We’ve had people who have developed occupational asthma from breathing the fine dust."

"sorting machines could send potentially carcinogenic volatile organic compounds (such as ink) and other irritants like dust mites, into the air. "

I think the Guardian should stop printing on paper and use a safer compound like the NUL Printer.

Aug 27, 2013 at 3:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterBruce

People who live next to a beach (as I do) should be dropping like flies then.

Or quite obviously not. At least not in the real world.

Aug 27, 2013 at 4:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterLynne

This does remind one of the crazy Roman Emperor and his war on the Sea.
The enviro-loons are truly nasty folk.
They are like an extreme caricature of Victorian stuffiness and faux morality on steroids.

Aug 27, 2013 at 5:02 PM | Unregistered Commenterlurker, passing through laughing

Persecution! Discrimination!

Aug 27, 2013 at 8:36 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

Is it irony, or some weird sickness?'s_crust

Abundance in the earth’s crust:
Oxygen, silicon, aluminium, iron, calcium, sodium, magnesium, ..... carbon comes in at 17, which actually surprises me. I thought it would be more common.

What sort of earth do they want to live on?

Aug 27, 2013 at 10:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterGreg Cavanagh

Many years ago (at least 20) a magazine aimed at the paint and chemicals industry listed a series of warnings for a chemical, and invited readers to guess what it was.

There were 14 separate warnings ranging from abrasive to the skin, irritating to the eyes ranging up to diseases of the lungs if inhaled. (The authorities missed calling it flammable).

Yes, it was beach sand. For use in school laboratories to soak up spills.

Aug 28, 2013 at 12:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterGraeme No.3

Aug 27, 2013 at 8:36 PM | Green Sand

Persecution! Discrimination!

Now, now ... calm down! I'm sure they'll find an exemption for you GS because ... well ... because you're Green, of course! ;-)

In the meantime, while I'm here - and on a somewhat related note (perhaps heralding the next war in the making!) - I'm sure you'll be pleased to know that the many tentacled arm known as the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) had kindly arranged to issue a "Briefing Note" on the progress of yet-another-scare-in-the-making:

The sixth meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group (hereinafter, the Working Group) to study issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction (BBNJ) convened from 19-23 August 2013 at UN Headquarters in New York.

The meeting was called by the General Assembly in resolution 67/78 and was held in light of paragraph 162 of the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development’s (UNCSD or Rio+20) outcome document “The Future We Want,” which contains a commitment to address on an urgent basis, building on the work of the Working Group, the issue of BBNJ including by taking a decision on the development of an international instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), before the end of the sixty-ninth session of the UN General Assembly.

The meeting aimed to identify gaps and ways forward with a view to ensuring an effective legal framework on BBNJ, drawing upon inputs provided by intersessional workshops, which were held in early May 2013 to improve understanding of BBNJ issues and lead to a more productive debate in the Working Group.

The meeting was attended by close to 300 participants [...] [emphasis added -hro]

Alas, it seems that the noses of "civil society" [aka Big Green NGOs] were somewhat out of joint. The summary of the Closing Plenary contains the following:

WWF, on behalf of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition and the High Seas Alliance with other NGOs, expressed grave concern about the closed-door sessions of the Friends of the Co-Chairs’ group; reminded delegates of the commitments to civil society engagement in international forums enshrined in the Rio Declaration; and emphasized the role of civil society in initially raising concerns about BBNJ and constructively contributing to the international negotiations.

Reading between the lines, it seems that somewhere along the line, it was decided (by some body or other) that there just aren't enough UN "international instruments" floating around; so this particular Working Group has been tasked with finding a ("scientific" or perhaps not) reason [i.e. more scary stories] for another one!

Read all about it (if you want to be bored to tears, that is!) here

Aug 28, 2013 at 1:15 AM | Registered CommenterHilary Ostrov

And as CO2 leads to Greening of Deserts what's not to like about more CO2 ;)

Aug 28, 2013 at 9:58 AM | Registered CommenterBreath of Fresh Air

Well, there goes the construction industry. Cement, concrete, and mortar all use sand. And stop those children playing in sandpits immediately!

Aug 28, 2013 at 4:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid

Crystalline silica is a lot less dangerous than di-hydrogen monoxide:

Aug 29, 2013 at 2:26 AM | Unregistered Commentersrp

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