The danger arrives with trucks bearing tons of sand. Off-loading that sand – which may contain up to 99 percent silica – can send clouds of thick dust into the air, exposing the lungs of fracking workers who are performing the task to serious inhalation hazards.
More risk is generated during the fracking process itself. During this method of harvesting natural gas, holes are drilled deep into the earth and a mixture of water, sand and chemicals is blasted at high pressures in order to fracture the shale rock formations thousands of feet underground and release the gas from the head of the well. Fracking – also known as hydraulic fracturing — potentially exposes workers to respiratory risks in the form of hydrogen sulfide and silica.