Toxic Chemicals & Health

Fracking uses vast quantities of chemicals known to harm human health. According to industry-reported data in the FracFocus database, oil and gas wells fracked across the U.S. between 2005 and 2015 used at least: 5 billion pounds of hydrochloric acid, a caustic acid; 1.2 billion pounds of petroleum distillates, which can irritate the throat, lungs and eyes; cause dizziness and nausea; and can include toxic and cancer-causing agents; and 445 million pounds of methanol, which is suspected to cause birth defects.

The exact identities of many other chemicals are unknown because they are kept secret as proprietary information.

People living or working nearby can be exposed to these chemicals if they enter drinking water after a spill or if they become airborne.

A recent analysis by researchers at the Yale School of Public Health identified 157 chemi- cals used in fracking that are toxic; the toxicity of 781 other fracking chemicals examined by the researchers is unknown.

A 2014 study by scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory reported that an estimated 10 percent of chemicals used in fracking fluid are known to be toxic to humans or aquatic life.

Other pollutants can travel underground, too.

A recent analysis of 550 groundwater samples drawn from aquifers overlying the Barnett Shale formation of Texas found elevated levels of 10 different metals as well as 19 different chemical compounds associated with hydraulic fracturing, including benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene. Another study found higher concentrations of arsenic, selenium and strontium in drinking water wells in the region, perhaps the result of the disturbance fracking creates underground.

 

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