2. Fracking chemicals are extremely dangerous. Since most natural gas drilling companies will not disclose all of the products they use in the drilling process, Theo Colborn, PhD, founder and president of The Endocrine Disruption Exchange, set out to figure out what's in the chemical cocktails used to drill wells and frack. She and her team found 649 different chemicals, more than half of which are known to disrupt the endocrine system. Exposure to these types of chemicals has been linked to certain cancers, diabetes, obesity, and metabolic syndrome (the name for a group of risk factors that occur together and increase the risk for heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes). Fifty-five percent of the chemicals cause brain and nervous system damage, and many are linked to cancer and organ damage. The threat of exposure to these chemicals occurs via contaminated air, water, and soil. "They're getting away with absolute murder; it's criminal, the things they're doing," says award-winning scientist Colborn. "If you destroy an aquifer, you've lost it. You've destroyed your drinking water supply."
3. Natural gas drilling turns clean country air to smog. Even if drilling and the fracking process run completely according to plan with no leaks, no methane migration into drinking water wells, no explosions, and no issues dealing with wastewater, air pollution from fracking is inevitable. It's part of the process, as huge condensate tanks and compressor stations release toxic hydrocarbons like benzene, toluene, xylenes, and ethylbenzene (BTEX) into surrounding communities. At high levels, exposure to BTEX vapors may cause irreversible damage. That, paired with chemicals used in the initial drilling process, make it very harmful to live in the vicinity of a drilling operation, Colborn says. Her study in the International Journal of Human and Ecological Risk Assessment found that 36 percent of the identifiable chemicals used are volatile, meaning they become airborne. Among those, 93 percent have been shown to harm the eyes, skin, sensory organs, respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract, or liver.
4. Fracking releases uranium. That's right, the radioactive stuff. The 2005 Energy Act included what is known as the Halliburton Loophole, which exempts the natural gas drilling industry from many safeguards, such as the Clean Water Act, intended to protect citizens from industrial corporate activities that pollute. While the chemical cocktail used in fracking has been of much concern, new research is pointing to another fact: Contaminants and dangerous substances trapped deep underground become mobilized when fracking creates mini-earthquake-like explosions underground. A 2010 study out of the University of Buffalo found that natural gas drilling using the fracking method could potentially contaminate water supplies with uranium.
5. Fracking affects everyone. A natural gas survey released in December 2010 found that regardless of political leanings, most people are concerned about fracking. Even if you don't live atop a major shale deposit, the pollution generated in fracking could affect you. Conrad Dan Volz, DrPH, MPH, director of the Center for Healthy Environments and Communities and the GSPH Environmental Health Risk Assessment Certificate Program at the University of Pittsburgh, notes that as more wells are installed in various states, there's more toxic wastewater to deal with. Wastewater from fracking operations is often sent to municipal treatment plants that are not properly equipped to handle contamination by more than 600 chemicals, and possibly radioactive material. This wastewater is often shipped to locations where fracking isn't even taking place, threatening rivers and drinking water supplies in those towns.
Aside from the toxic wastewater issue, fracking could also blemish your nature vacation. Drilling is allowed on public lands, and it's particularly on display in the now not-so-picturesque parks of Colorado and Wyoming.
Published on: February 24, 2011
Updated on: January 30, 2013