Tag Archives: cancer

Friends of the Earth get sand in their eyes

It is every child’s dream to play on a sandy beach on a perfect summer’s day and perhaps building a sandcastle.

But from what Tony Bosworth said on television  in October 2015, it seems that this could give you cancer!!!!

He probably regrets saying it, especially as the trigger factor for his comment has not gone away. In the last month a Friends on the earth leaflet was enclosed in several publications –  at least Private Eye, The Sunday Times, Simple Things. I don’t know if there were others. Presumably FoE paid hard cash to have the leaflet as an insert.

For more my assessment and the complaint put into the ASA see;


The leaflet was asking for donations for FoE’s work in attempting to stop fracking in Lancashire, where they have been very active in working among communities over the last few years. Among other things they wanted donations “to investigate the practices of the fracking giant, Cuadrilla”. The cover had a picture of Grasmere with the words “Don’t let fracking destroy all of this” – what numpties! A little geology would have told them there is no gas in Grasmere.  They also claimed “25% of the chemicals used in the fracking process could cause cancer”.

Exactly what FoE meant by the 25% of the chemicalsis not clear. Did the mean 255 of the number of chemicals used  – including dihydrogen monoxide,which in its pure from kills several hikers each year in the Arizona desert. Or did he mean 25% of the total volume of chemicals? Bbut on BBC TV on 19th October Tony Bosworth said it was silica, which makes up about 95% of beach sand, and so I draw on some humorous artwork from Backing Fracking. (The quotes are made up but give the gist of it!)

fracking sand

Sand gets in your eyes and gives you cancer!! Yes, sand i.e. silica CAN give you cancer but only if you breath in vast amounts as did coal miners, who often got silicosis rather than cancer. (I know too many who died of that and it was not pleasant, with oxygen cylinders and being virtually housebound.) It was a silly example as the Health and Safety Executive lay down VERY stringent regulations on how sand/silica should be used to protect workers. I say “workers” as even if the HSE regulations were not followed very little silica would blow off site to be a hazard to those nearby.

To clear matters up a letter was sent to the HSE requesting their guidelines on the use of silica and below is the reply. Frankly, it shows that Tony Bosworth was grossly ill-informed about the dangers of silica and unaware of the regulations. It is surprising that as Energy Campaigner for FoE,  Tony Bosworth could be so ill-informed. He only compounded the errors and scare-mongering of the leaflet.

If you are bored with this, you can read the HSE’s response to the question about silica and decide for yourself whether or not rig-workers and local residents are at risk of getting cancer. I honestly think all are at greater risk of getting silly-cosis.

So here it is;


Health and Safety Executive on the use of silica

Thanks for your email, below is an overview of the HSE’s expectation regarding silica use on oil and gas well sites in GB. I hope you find this helpful.


Silica is one of the major components of soil, rock, sand, granite and many other minerals and is a major constituent of construction materials such as bricks, tiles and concrete. Silica itself is not harmful but silica dust can cause a whole host of health problems for those who work with this mineral. Many common workplace activities such as cutting, drilling, grinding and polishing, produce fine dust containing Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS).


Repeated and prolonged exposure over many years to relatively high concentrations of RCS in the air is known to cause a lung disease called silicosis and also lung cancer. Such exposure may occur for instance when rocks containing crystalline silica are ground up during mining or quarrying operations. The term ‘respirable’ means that the dust particles are small enough to get deep into the lungs when they are inhaled. Silica is not readily soluble in water or body fluids and this is thought to be one of the contributing factors determining the damage that silica can cause in the lungs.


The hydraulic fracturing of rock, (fracking) process used to exploit gas and oil from shale deposits requires a substantial amount of sand. In 2008, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a safety warning, because they have evidence that in the US the risk of exposure to silica dust was not managed effectively.


The risk of exposure to silica dust is well understood in Great Britain and the HSE has issued guidance to help employers manage the risks and to raise awareness of the importance of controlling exposure at work.   The occupational use of silica is regulated under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH). Occupational exposure to all substances hazardous to health, including RCS, should be adequately controlled using measures that are proportionate to the health risk. There is a Workplace Exposure Limit (WEL) for RCS,  a WEL is the maximum concentration of an airborne substance, averaged over a reference period, to which employees may be exposed by inhalation.


RCS has a WEL of 0.1mg m-3 and in practice, employers are expected to keep exposures well below 0.1 mg m-3 and to apply good control practice, as well as getting below the WEL. The position around the WEL, including developments in the EU is being kept under review by HSE.


In oil and gas wells sand can be used as a propant – a material that holds open fractures in the rock caused by hydraulic fracturing. Where sand is used on well sites the risks of exposure to RCS should be controlled. One of the most effective ways to achieve this is to ensure that the sand is transported to the site and introduced to the hydraulic fracturing fluid in a way that worker exposure is minimised.


Using sealed silos is a good way of ensuring that workers are not exposed to sand that could contain RCS. This technique was used at the Preese Hall well and there is an expectation from HSE that similar techniques to limit exposure will be used on other oil and gas wells where hydraulic fracturing is planned.


Further information is available from HSE:





Kind regards

name removed

HID Oil and Gas Policy Team

Health and Safety Executive

Redgrave Court

Merseyside L20 7HS