Dr. Stephanie M. Chalupka, Worcester State University

Chalupka Publishes Article on Silica Exposure from Fracking

December 18, 2012
By: WSU News

Stephanie Chalupka (Nursing) wrote the article “Occupational Silica Exposure in Hydraulic Fracturing” for the AAOHN Journal: Workplace Health and Safety, which examines methods to reduce or eliminate occupational exposure including engineering controls, work practices, protective equipment, and product substitution.

Hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” is a process used to “stimulate” well production in the oil and gas industry. It is not a new process, but its use has increased significantly in the last 10 years because of new horizontal drilling and multi-stage fracking (or “completions”) technologies that improve access to natural gas and oil deposits. It involves pumping large volumes of water and sand into a well at high pressure to fracture shale and other tight formations, allowing oil and gas to flow into the well.

Recent field studies show that workers may be exposed to dust with high levels of respirable crystalline silica during hydraulic fracturing. Hydraulic fracturing sand contains up to 99 percent silica. Breathing silica can cause silicosis. Silicosis is a lung disease where lung tissue around trapped silica particles reacts, causing inflammation and scarring and reducing the lungs’ ability to take in oxygen.

Workers who breathe silica day after day are at greater risk of developing silicosis. Silica can also cause lung cancer and has been linked to other diseases, such as tuberculosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and kidney and autoimmune disease.

In addition, Chalupka wrote the article  “Overtime Work as a Predictor of a Major Depressive Episode”, which was published in Workplace Health & Safety.

She also was the co-principal investigator for a WSU-UMass Lowell research project that developed, implemented and evaluated a program that helps families in Lowell reduce environmental risks in their homes that trigger asthma attacks. Asthma attacks decreased by 76 percent, hospital emergency room visits decreased by 81 percent, and the physical and emotional health of the children improved substantially within one year thanks to the program, according to UMass Lowell. Click here to read the article.

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