How Fracking is Contaminating our Air and Water, and Imperiling the Health of Millions

2018 Fracking Report details Increased Risks of Asthma, Birth Defects and Cancer

The 2018 edition of the Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking updates the rapidly expanding evidence indicating harm to health from fracking and methane infrastructure.

The most authoritative study of its kind reveals how hydraulic fracturing is contaminating the air and water – and imperiling the health of millions.

Conclusion

All together, findings to date from scientific, medical, and journalistic investigations combine to demonstrate that fracking poses significant threats to air, water, health, public safety, climate stability, seismic stability, community cohesion, and long-term economic vitality. Emerging data from a rapidly expanding body of evidence continue to reveal a plethora of recurring problems and harms that cannot be sufficiently averted through regulatory frameworks. There is no evidence that fracking can operate without threatening public health directly or without imperiling climate stability upon which public health depends. In the words of investigative journalist Andrew Nikiforuk:

Industry swore that its cracking rock technology was safe and proven, but science now tells a different story. Brute force combined with ignorance … has authored thousands of earthquakes … [and] called forth clouds of migrating methane…. The science is complicated but clear: cracking rock with fluids is a chaotic activity and no computer model can predict where those fractures will go. The regulatory record shows that they often go out of zone; extend into water; and rattle existing oil and gas wells, and these rattled wells are leaking more methane.

We close with an observation by Maryland physician Judy Stone, MD, whose recent essay in Forbes speaks for all who have contributed to this Compendium:

Fracking profits go to private industry but the public — families and communities — bear the costs of the many health complications from the drilling.

There is growing evidence of a variety of health problems being associated with fracking.
Common sense dictates that drinking and breathing cancer-causing agents will take their toll. The correlation is too strong to ignore, especially when we have other, cleaner energy options. For our safety and that of future generations, we should not allow the new administration to sell off public lands, nor allow drilling on our land, and should ban fracking completely.

Sources

  • ‘The Harms of Fracking’: New Report Details Increased Risks of Asthma, Birth Defects and Cancer, rollingstone, 2018/03/13.
  • Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking (Unconventional Gas and Oil Extraction), psr, March 2018.
  • Fracking industry site near Greers Ferry Lake in Quitman, Arkansas in the Fayetteville Shale region featured image credit © Julie Dermansky.

Prenatal exposure to fracking chemicals linked to abnormal mammary glands in adulthood

Exposure to chemicals used during fracking may cause pre-cancerous lesions in mice, MU study finds

Environmental scientists at the University of Missouri and the University of Massachusetts observed changes in mammary gland development of female mice exposed during early development to the chemicals used in unconventional oil and gas (UOG) extraction – including fracking – at levels environmentally relevant to humans.

The Prenatal exposure to unconventional oil and gas operation chemical mixtures altered mammary gland development in adult female mice authors believe theirs is the first study to show that mouse mammary gland tissues are sensitive to a mixture of 23 commonly used UOG chemicals, with dose-specific effects on tissue morphology, cell proliferation and induction of intraductal hyperplasias, an overgrowth of cells considered a marker for future breast cancer risk.

2018 Study Abstract

Unconventional oil and gas operations (UOG), which combine hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and directional drilling, involve the use of hundreds of chemicals including many with endocrine disrupting properties. Two previous studies examined mice exposed during early development to a 23-chemical mixture of UOG compounds (UOG-MIX) commonly used or produced in the process. Both male and female offspring exposed prenatally to one or more doses of UOG-MIX displayed alterations to endocrine organ function and serum hormone concentrations. We hypothesized that prenatal UOG-MIX exposures would similarly disrupt development of the mouse mammary gland. Female C57Bl/6 mice were exposed to approximately 3, 30, 300 or 3000 μg/kg/day UOG-MIX from gestational day 11 to birth. Although no effects were observed on the mammary glands of these females prior to puberty, in early adulthood, females exposed to 300 or 3000 μg/kg/day UOG-MIX developed more dense mammary epithelial ducts; females exposed to 3 μg/kg/day UOG-MIX had an altered ratio of apoptosis to proliferation in the mammary epithelium. Furthermore, adult females from all UOG-MIX-treated groups developed intraductal hyperplasia that resembled terminal end buds, i.e., highly proliferative structures typically seen at puberty. These results suggest that the mammary gland is sensitive to mixtures of chemicals used in unconventional oil and gas production, at exposure levels that are environmentally relevant. The impact of these findings on the long-term health of the mammary gland, including its lactational capacity and its risk of cancer, should be evaluated in future studies.

How Do Environmental Laws Protect Fracking Chemicals ?

Fracking and Health : Ask an Expert – with Dusty Horwitt

TEDX conducts brief interviews with leading experts to get answers about health threats posed by unconventional oil and gas operations.
Press Play > to listen to the recording.

OUR SOUNDCLOUD PLAYLISTS

How can NGOs address health symptoms in fracked communities ?

Fracking and Health : Ask an Expert – with Dr. Beth Weinberger

TEDX conducts brief interviews with leading experts to get answers about health threats posed by unconventional oil and gas operations.
Press Play > to listen to the recording.

OUR SOUNDCLOUD PLAYLISTS

Fracking Musical

Brewed On Grant : Musical Shale

The Marcellus Shale industry, whose “fracking” practices have been criticized by environmentalists, have been pushing hard with PR campaigns on several fronts. They have been trying to put a positive spin on their practices while reminding everyone of all the jobs they are creating.

Fracking allowed under State Parks and Forests

Brewed On Grant : Park Frackers

The Allegheny County Council decided it would be a good idea to start fracking under Deer Lakes Park. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Governor Tom Corbett issued an executive order saying it was OK to drill under Pennsylvania forests and state parks.

Serious health hazards for infants and children living near fracking sites

Neurodevelopmental and neurological effects of chemicals associated with unconventional oil and natural gas operations and their potential effects on infants and children

Multiple pollutants found in the air and water near fracked oil and gas sites are linked to brain problems in children.

2017 Study Abstract

Heavy metals (arsenic and manganese), particulate matter (PM), benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylenes (BTEX), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) have been linked to significant neurodevelopmental health problems in infants, children and young adults.

These substances are widely used in, or become byproducts of unconventional oil and natural gas (UOG) development and operations. Every stage of the UOG lifecycle, from well construction to extraction, operations, transportation and distribution can lead to air and water contamination. Residents near UOG operations can suffer from increased exposure to elevated concentrations of air and water pollutants.

Here we focus on five air and water pollutants that have been associated with potentially permanent learning and neuropsychological deficits, neurodevelopmental disorders and neurological birth defects. Given the profound sensitivity of the developing brain and central nervous system, it is reasonable to conclude that young children who experience frequent exposure to these pollutants are at particularly high risk for chronic neurological diseases.

More research is needed to understand the extent of these concerns in the context of UOG, but since UOG development has expanded rapidly in recent years, the need for public health prevention techniques, well-designed studies and stronger state and national regulatory standards is becoming increasingly apparent.

More Information

  • Full study (free access) Neurodevelopmental and neurological effects of chemicals associated with unconventional oil and natural gas operations and their potential effects on infants and children, Reviews on Environmental Health, doi.org/10.1515/reveh-2017-0008, 2017-10-25.
  • Fracking chemicals and kids’ brains don’t mix: Study, Environmental Health News, 2017-10-25.
  • Featured image credit WildEarth Guardians and @EnvirHealthNews.

When is it time to stop debating and accept the evidence ?

Via “An Taisce” charity, dedicated to protecting Ireland’s natural and built heritage

An appropriate cartoon for the Paris Agreement ratification and no-fracking day in IRL. Will @FineGael try to block efforts to ban fracking?

Image source @AnTaisce, 27 oct. 2016.

Toward Consistent Methodology to Quantify Populations in Proximity to Oil and Gas Development

Seventeen Million in U.S. Live Near Active Oil or Gas Wells

A number of studies indicate that there may be negative health outcomes associated with living in close proximity to oil and gas development. Degraded air quality; surface water, groundwater and soil contamination; and elevated noise and light pollution are exposure pathways that contribute to potential human health impacts.

Studies have identified multiple symptoms reported by residents living with oil and gas infrastructure in their communities, including respiratory symptoms, such as nose, eye, and throat irritation; headaches; and fatigue, among others.

One study has pointed to increased hospitalization rates for multiple medical categories, including cardiology, neurology, and oncology. Increased asthma incidence and severity has also been reported in Pennsylvania.

Preliminary epidemiological studies that use distance of oil and gas development as the exposure metric have found positive associations with adverse birth outcomes, including preterm birth, lower birth weight, and small for gestational age, as well as neural tube defects and congenital heart defects.

Studies also identified increased incidence of childhood hematologic cancer among children that live in close proximity to oil and gas development compared to those that live farther away.

While many findings in the public health literature on oil and gas development are sometimes inconsistent and studies often lack the designs to arrive at causal claims, the body of literature serves as an indication that proximity to oil and gas development is associated with adverse health risks and impacts.

Previous Population Proximity Studies

Public concern and the public health scientific literature to date has spurred interest in quantitative assessments of populations potentially at increased risk of health impacts from living in close proximity to oil and gas development. Four peer-reviewed studies were published in the last 2 y: two reporting population counts, and three reporting demographic subgroups. Three additional studies were identified in the gray literature. The earliest study we could identify was published in The Wall Street Journal. This early study has substantial methodological flaws, but is included in our review because it was the first published attempt to quantify populations near oil and gas wells.

2017 Study Abstract

BACKGROUND
Higher risk of exposure to environmental health hazards near oil and gas wells has spurred interest in quantifying populations that live in proximity to oil and gas development. The available studies on this topic lack consistent methodology and ignore aspects of oil and gas development of value to public health–relevant assessment and decision-making.

OBJECTIVES
We aim to present a methodological framework for oil and gas development proximity studies grounded in an understanding of hydrocarbon geology and development techniques.

METHODS
We geospatially overlay locations of active oil and gas wells in the conterminous United States and Census data to estimate the population living in proximity to hydrocarbon development at the national and state levels. We compare our methods and findings with existing proximity studies.

RESULTS
Nationally, we estimate that 17.6 million people live within 1,600 m (∼1 mi) of at least one active oil and/or gas well. Three of the eight studies overestimate populations at risk from actively producing oil and gas wells by including wells without evidence of production or drilling completion and/or using inappropriate population allocation methods. The remaining five studies, by omitting conventional wells in regions dominated by historical conventional development, significantly underestimate populations at risk.

CONCLUSIONS
The well inventory guidelines we present provide an improved methodology for hydrocarbon proximity studies by acknowledging the importance of both conventional and unconventional well counts as well as the relative exposure risks associated with different primary production categories (e.g., oil, wet gas, dry gas) and developmental stages of wells.

More Information

  • Toward Consistent Methodology to Quantify Populations in Proximity to Oil and Gas Development: A National Spatial Analysis and Review, Environmental Health Perspectives, DOI:10.1289/EHP1535, AUGUST 2017 | VOLUME 125 | ISSUE 8.
  • Seventeen Million in US Live Near Active Oil or Gas Wells, Truthout, September 06, 2017.
  • Featured image credit EHP : confirmed active well counts by U.S. county. Well data are from DrillingInfo. Administrative boundaries are from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Fracking Fluid’s Secret Recipe

Can we measure the hydraulic fracturing health effects easily without knowing exactly what chemicals are used?

Another classic Rob Rogers‘ cartoon that nails some of the absurd messaging and rationale by the fracking industry.

Sources and More Information