Fracking Fluids Made Up of Toxic, Cancer Causing Chemicals, Report Finds

Hundreds of millions of gallons of dangerous chemicals, some cancer causing, were shot into wells in over 13 states during fracking activities from 2005 to 2009, said The New York Times, citing a Democratic Congressional probe.

Fracking, also known as hydraulic fracturing, which involves injecting a mixture of water and chemicals into shale deposits under high pressure to release natural gas, is generally exempt from regulation under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, except when diesel fuel is used in injection fluids. As a result, the federal government does not require natural gas drillers to disclose the ingredients in their fracking fluid, and most regulation of hydraulic fracturing is left up to individual states.

Opponents of fracking are concerned that this type of natural gas drilling could lead to pollution of vital drinking water sources, either through the release of naturally-occurring hazardous substances such as arsenic, mercury, heavy metals, and radioactive materials from underground, or as a result of spills or leaks involving fracking fluid or fracking wastewater. Studies have shown that fracking fluids often contain some hazardous chemicals, including the carcinogen, benzene, and diesel.

“Questions about the safety of hydraulic fracturing persist, which are compounded by the secrecy surrounding the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing fluids,” the report stated, quoted The New York Times. The report, which was released this weekend, was authored by Representatives Henry A. Waxman (California), Edward J. Markey (Massachusetts), and Diana DeGette (Colorado), said The Times. The report also blamed companies for, “injecting fluids containing chemicals that they themselves cannot identify,” quoted the Times.

“With our river ways and drinking water at stake, it’s an absolute necessity that the American public knows what is in these fracking chemicals,” said Representative Markey, quoted the Committee on Energy and Commerce. “Hydraulic fracturing has helped to expand natural gas production in the United States, but we must ensure that these new resources don’t come at the expense of public health,” said Representative Waxman. “This report shows that these companies are injecting millions of gallons of products that contain potentially hazardous chemicals, including known carcinogens.  I urge EPA and DOE to make certain that we have strong protections in place to prevent these chemicals from entering drinking water supplies,” he added.

During the last Congress, the Committee its investigation on fracturing in the United States, asking key oil and gas companies to provide data from 2005 to 2009. In response, Representative DeGette said, “It is deeply disturbing to discover the content and quantity of toxic chemicals, like benzene and lead, being injected into the ground without the knowledge of the communities whose health could be affected. Of particular concern to me is that we learned that over the four-year period studied, over one and a half million gallons of carcinogens were injected into the ground in Colorado. Many companies were also unable to even identify some of the chemicals they were using in their own activities, unfortunately underscoring that voluntary industry disclosure is not enough to ensure the economic benefits of natural gas production do not come at the cost of our families’ health,” quoted the Committee.

A report published by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) in early 2010 also found that many wells were being fracked with diesel without the proper permits. An EPA official told a Senate panel that any natural gas and oil drillers who acknowledged injecting diesel fuel into the ground during hydraulic fracturing broke the law if they didn’t have a permit from the agency.

Many experts believe fracking poses serious environmental and health outcomes linked to hazardous chemicals, heavy metals, and water supply contamination, and that, based on a recent Cornell University study, fracking releases even more methane into the atmosphere than coal.

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