Fracking Is Making People Sicker Than Anyone Expected
A new report was just released that shows just how dangerous fracking is as a public health threat.
The report, entitled “Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking (Unconventional Gas and Oil Extraction)” and published in March 2018, was produced by Concerned Health Professionals of New York and Physicians for Social Responsibility.
The report has been described rightly as being one of the most authoritative of its kind. It cites historical data on both fracking itself and its effects on people, and it provides an extensive analysis of the risks associated with people having exposure to fracked areas.
Fracking was introduced right at the end of the 20th century. It came about at a time when oil was scarcer and prices were higher. With that scarcity in mind, unusual means of extraction were being pursued to get at oil and natural-gas deposits in shale bedrock. These extraction methods used pressurized fluids (often heavily laden with various chemicals) and injected them into the rocks. The chemicals included, as the report notes, “biocides, friction reducers, gelling agents and anti-scaling and anti-corrosion agents.” Once injected, those fluids would then cause the shale layers to expand and extend the cracks that were already present there. Sometimes explosive charges were added to the process to further encourage crack expansion.
The report further notes:
“As fracking operations in the United States have increased in frequency, size and intensity, and as the transport of extracted materials has expanded, a significant body of evidence has emerged to demonstrate that these activities are dangerous to people and their communities in ways that are difficult — and may prove impossible — to mitigate. Risks include adverse impacts on water, air, agriculture, public health and safety, property values, climate stability and economic vitality as well as earthquakes.” (From page 14 of the report)
As for the damage to people who live near fracking operations, the report’s authors note that in Pennsylvania, where a large number of those are present, “as the number of gas wells increase in a community, so do rates of hospitalization, and community members experience sleep disturbance, headache, throat irritation, stress/anxiety, cough, shortness of breath, sinus, fatigue, wheezing and nausea.” As fracking and related drilling operations increase in an area, the report notes, there are “increased rates of asthma, elevated motor vehicle fatalities, ambulance runs and emergency room visits and gonorrhea incidence.” All of this has been backed up by extensive medical and other records.
The report also calls attention to the associated high levels of benzene, a carcinogen, in ambient air near where drilling and fracking are taking place. It states that those levels “are sufficient to elevate risks for future cancers in both workers and nearby residents” and that “animal studies show numerous threats to fertility and reproductive success from exposure to various concentrations of oil and gas chemicals, including at levels representative of those found in drinking water.”the report goes on to make a number of damning statements about how bad the situation is becoming. In their “Emerging Trends” analysis part of the report, the authors state the following:
1. Growing evidence shows that regulations are simply not capable of preventing harm.
2. Fracking and the disposal of fracking waste threaten drinking water.
3. Drilling and fracking contribute to toxic air pollution and smog (ground-level ozone) at levels known to have health impacts.
4. Public health problems associated with drilling and fracking include poor birth outcomes, reproductive and respiratory impacts, cancer risks and occupational health and safety problems.
5. Natural gas is a threat to the climate.
6. Earthquakes are a proven consequence of drilling and fracking-related activities in many locations.
7. Fracking infrastructure poses serious potential exposure risks to those living nearby.
8. Drilling and fracking activities can bring naturally occurring radioactive materials to the surface.
(All of the above statements come directly from the report, from pages 17-30. There are more than this list, but the items here give an idea of the scope and breadth of the conclusions the report’s authors have made.)
With data backing up each of these trends and with the extensive documentation on the damaging health consequences of being near fracking areas, it is no wonder that Sandra Steingraber, a biologist and one of the co-authors of the report, said in a recent interview with Rolling Stone, “Fracking is the worst thing I’ve ever seen.” In the same interview, she went on to say: “Those of us in the public health sector started to realize years ago that there were potential risks. Then the industry rolled out faster than we could do our science. Now we see those risks have turned into human harms and people are getting sick ... And we in this field have a moral imperative to raise the alarm.”
Fracking is a deadly attack on people and the global ecosystem. There are only two groups benefiting from its further expansion in the world: the greedy fossil fuel industry and those who receive their lobbying dollars in state and federal legislatures. Fracking is a plague on the world that must be stopped before further damage is caused.
Now is a good time for us to stop supporting fracking by reducing our usage of oil and natural gas and support the development of a culture that is not reliant and dirty and dangerous fossil fuels.
It may seem difficult to break free from dependence on gas and oil but others are doing it.
Solar and wind power are less expensive than dirtry forms of energy and vastly less expensive when considering the environmental and health costs.
Over its lifetime an electric car is far less expensive to own and operate than gas or diesel powered vehicles.
Through digital currencies, the North America Procurement Council plans to fund the development of climate-proof and carbon-negative communities where money is not required for residents, everyone can walk to work, food is healthy and high-quality health-care is freely available.
We can choose to leave the madness of fracking behind and live in a better way.