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article imageOil & natural gas fracking has a price tag for human health

By Stephanie Dearing     Sep 17, 2010 in Health
North Fork - Colorado-based physician Dr. Theo Colborn, along with three colleagues, completed research on hydraulic fracturing, or 'fracking,' concluding the form of accessing difficult-to-reach crude oil and natural gas poses a human health hazard.
Published in the International Journal of Human and Ecological Risk Assessment on September 4, the study is titled Natural Gas Operations from a Public Health Perspective. and was posted on line by the non-profit, the Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX). The organization also posted a statement.
Warning that human development can be affected in the womb by low levels of toxins, TEDX warns the danger is even greater because "... government standards for chemical safety are deeply flawed." The organization went on to say society should move away from "Fossil-fuel derived chemicals" because these chemicals "... also produce pollution at every stage they are handled - extraction, refinement, processing, production, distribution and waste disposal." The reason we should be looking at alternatives is crucial, the statement says, to "... Our ability to produce healthy, intelligent individuals who can create a clean and safe world."
Fracking presents a special pollution situation because the process uses "... millions of gallons of water ... mixed with sand and chemicals, then injected into the earth in order to help the gas rise to the surface. Pollution of our air, water and soil is created when gasses rise from the well pad and from waste evaporation ponds, when liquids are injected underground, spilled, or incompletely processed in waste facilities, and when sludge and other toxic solids are farmed into soil. In addition, lights, roads and truck traffic disturb wildlife and nearby communities."
The study by Colborn, Carol Kwiatkowski, Kim Schultz, Mary Bachran found that fracking not only pollutes the ground water system wherever the process is undertaken, but also pollutes the air. The chemicals used in fracking range from methanol to Tetramethylammonium chloride, with over a thousand other chemicals used in natural gas operations across the United States.
The report concluded by noting that natural gas drilling operations also uses chemicals. "... From the first day the drill bit is inserted into the ground until the well is completed, toxic materials are introduced into the borehole and returned to the surface along with produced water and other extraction liquids. In the western U.S. it has been common practice to hold these liquids in open evaporation pits until the wells are shut down, which could be up to 25 years. These pits have rarely been examined to ascertain their chemical contents outside of some limited parameters (primarily metals, chlorides, and radioactive materials). Our data reveal that extremely toxic chemicals are found in evaporation pits and indeed, these and other similar sites may need to be designated for Superfund cleanup. In the eastern U.S., and increasingly in the west, these chemicals are being re-injected underground, creating yet another potential source of extremely toxic chemical contamination. In other words, what ends up in evaporation pits in the West, will in other parts of the country be injected underground."
Colborn, an expert in "... the effects of low level and/or ambient exposure to toxic chemicals called endocrine disruptors," has spoken up against oil and natural gas extraction for years, testifying before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in 2007.
Colborn has advised both the Canadian and US governments on various environmental policies, and her work has prompted the creation of laws to protect human health.
In related news, Wyoming state legislators just enacted a new law that requires natural gas operations to inform the public as to what chemicals they are using in the fracking process, reported Sustainable Business.
The US Environmental Protection Agency has been holding public hearings on hydraulic fracturing this in a response to concerns about health raised by citizens. Those hearings will be wrapping up next week in New York state reported All247News.
New York state has been the site of a very contentious fight over fracking. CNN reported that under New York State lies a very large deposit of natural gas, but the fuel is difficult to reach. Fracking would be required to get the natural gas out of the ground, and New York State has not yet approved the process.
13 Pennsylvania families launched a law suit against a Texas-based company, claiming the fracking process contaminated their water, said AboutLawSuits. That company, Southwestern Energy, has denied the allegations.
Hydraulic Fracturing has been used since the 1940s, explains API. It was declared safe by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2004. API said hydraulic fracturing is critical to the United States for both energy and the economy. "... The oil and natural gas produced thanks to this technology helps fuel our nation’s economy by providing jobs, and the energy needed to heat our homes, fill-up our cars, generate electricity and create the basic materials for such things as fertilizer and plastics of every variety."
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