Health Dangers of Fracking

February 14, 2017

When we talk about health, it’s impossible to ignore the impacts certain types of energy have on our breathing, wellness and even cancer risk. And as our country increasingly looks to ways to fuel the modern lifestyle, it’s important to note the potential health side effects of these tactics. Here, we focus on the dangers of fracking, particularly as it relates to human health. And that damage can occur not only when a person is exposed to fracking pollution in the soil, water or air, but even while a child is still forming in an exposed mother’s womb.

And while I focus on the disease risks associated with this modern fuel extraction practice, it’s also important to note the economic burdens included in the dangers of fracking.

For instance, costs associated with drinking water contamination in just one town alone are estimated at more than $11 million. (This is Dimock, Pennsylvania, where residents required a permanently drinking water replacement due to irreversible contamination.)

Another example? The health costs linked to fracking-related air pollution in Arkansas’ Fayetteville Shale region. This damage is estimated at $9.8 million a year. In Texas’ Barnett Shale region, those costs reach $270,000 per day during the summer smog season. These are high losses for not only quality of life losses, but whoever is footing the health insurance bills, as well.

Dangers of Fracking: Toxic Chemicals

Otherwise known as unconventional hydraulic fracturing, fracking is increasingly on the radar of public health scientists due to the harmful extraction, processing and emissions created from this fuel source.

Here’s one of many emerging findings: More than 1,000 chemicals in hydraulic fracking fluids are linked to reproductive and developmental health problems, according to Yale School of Public Healht researchers. The study, published in the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental and Epidemiology, voiced concern over how these chemicals could impact current and future generations.

In fracking, industry recovers natural gas from deep within the ground by using a mixture of hydraulic-fracturing fluids that can contain hundreds of chemicals. Sometimes, the drilling goes two miles deep, releasing water and sand to release gas from the rock below.

The problem? Earthquake-level tremors, drinking water pollution and seriously tainted air are real side effects.

For instance, the significant wastewater that flows back to the surface is found to contain fracking fluid chemicals along with toxic chemicals and radioactive materials from the bedrock it shatters.

Specifically, the Yale team that 157 of the substances used in fracking caused harm. These included arsenic, benzene, cadmium, lead, formaldehyde, chlorine and mercury — all considered developmental or reproductive toxic compounds.

Yale researchers said 781 chemicals involved in fracking need to be analyzed for find out if they cause more health threats to humans. This is concerning, given that non-conventional hydraulic fracturing has been in practice for the last few years in the U.S.

This is just the latest example of how the U.S. allows toxic chemicals on the market before they’re adequately tested for long-term impact on human health. We see this, unfortunately, frequently in synthetic scents, chemicals in the food system and other personal care products. Let’s explore the main dangers of fracking in more detail.

Dangers of Fracking: Hormonal Chaos

There are several studies that suggest fracking chemicals impact fertility and other hormonally regulated bodily functions. This includes trouble getting pregnant. An animal study published in the journal Endocrinology found prenatal exposure to chemicals in hydraulic fracturing could lead to trouble getting pregnant. Even more troubling is the fact that these hormone-disrupting chemicals have been detected in ground and surface water.

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