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KNOWN TOXICITY AND HARMS TO HUMAN HEALTH

Among numerous hazardous compounds, liquid fracking waste can contain PFAS, bromide, arsenic, mercury, barium, radioactive isotopes and organic compounds like benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes. Exposure to these toxic and radioactive substances has been correlated with increased risks of cancer, birth defects, and early death, and the evidence keeps coming.

Risks to Human Health, Wildlife and Biodiversity

Image by Aditya Romansa

Of the more than 1,000 chemicals that are confirmed ingredients in fracking fluid, an estimated 100 are known endocrine disruptors, acting as reproductive and developmental toxicants, and at least 48 are potentially carcinogenic. Adding to this mix are heavy metals, radioactive elements, brine, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which occur naturally in deep geological formations and which can be carried up from the fracking zone with the flowback fluid.

577 PAGES OF FRACKING HEALTH RISKS DOCUMENTED

 

A team of chemists at University of Toledo, working with counterparts at University of Texas created a method for identifying 201 different chemical compounds in fracking wastewater that can be used to screen for the presence of toxic substances before it is used for agricultural purpose or dumped into waterways. Among the chemicals identified by the team as present in fracking waste were carcinogens and solvents known to contaminate drinking water. These included toluene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, 1,4-dioxane, and the weed killer atrazine. This is just one of the hundreds of peer reviewed studies documented in the Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking and Associated Gas and Oil Infrastructure published by Physicians for Social Responsibility, Concerned Health Professionals of New York and the Science and Environmental Health Network.

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BIO ACCUMULATION OF TOXICITY IN PLANTS AND ANIMALS EXPOSED TO "TREATED" FRACKING WASTE

 

Treated fracking waste used on crops and livestock can lead to accumulation of toxins in soil and food products, and decreased soil health, microbial diversity and crop yields.

 

A study of wheat watered with treated produced water found that irrigating with the fracking waste may result in yield decreases, as well as reducing both overall soil health and soil microbial community diversity.

 

Researchers working in Pennsylvania found elevated levels of strontium in the shells of freshwater mussels living downstream of a disposal facility that treated fracking wastewater and released it into streams between 2008 and 2011. The practice was halted thereafter when heavy metals and radioactivity began rising in drinking water.

 

Tadpoles exposed to low doses of produced water died or exhibited acute alterations of immune function and antiviral immunity.

 

Scientists documented the transfer of radio-nuclides from hay and silage to cow’s milk and found that the yearly amount of radiation infants would receive from drinking the milk would be about 40 millirem, the equivalent of four chest X-rays. 

"Research over the past several years has shown that produced water can lower crop yields; suppress plant disease defenses; inhibit seed vigor and germination; impair soil health by reducing microbial diversity; and harm fish, amphibians and mollusks. Scientists have also documented accumulations of metals and other toxic compounds from produced water in plants, including the shoots and roots of grasses and the stems and grain of wheat. "

PFAS - FOREVER CHEMICALS

 

Using records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and the FracFocus database of fracking chemical use, an investigation by Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) found that more than 1,200 oil and gas wells in six states were fracked using highly toxic per- and polyfluoralkyl substances (PFAS) between 2012 and 2020. These states are Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Texas, and Wyoming. Nicknamed “forever chemicals” because of their inability to break down in the environment or in the bodies of living organisms, PFAS chemicals are linked to cancer, birth defects, high blood pressure during pregnancy, and other health harms.

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HARM TO WORKERS IN FRACKING WASTE TREATMENT PLANTS

 

Justin Nobel, award winning journalist and author of "Petroleum-238: Big Oil's Dangerous Secret and the Grassroots Fight to Stop It," published in April 2024, documents the experiences of workers in the oil field and in fracking waste treatment plants authorized in Pennsylvania. Workers report joint pain, nausea, swelling of lymph nodes, and heart attacks. At least two workers died after extended exposure. A 2016 Pennsylvania Department of Environment Protection report found that radiation exposure rates for wastewater workers were occasionally at levels dozens of times what would be considered a contaminated workspace by US government health agencies, and radioactivity found on plant surfaces, according to the report, presented “a potential inhalation or ingestion hazard.”

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