To reasonable people it makes a whole lot of sense that the act of pumping tons of unidentified chemicals, water, and sand into the Earth’s surface and then exploding them will result in catastrophes for both land and man.
Yet the energy and natural gas industry question that outcome, insisting that the long and short-term impacts of hydraulic-fracturing on human health demand “more study.”
While evidence of pollution mounts in heavily fracked regions across the country—with ground and surface water contaminated, livestock dead from drinking from it, and strange cancers and respiratory illnesses on the rise—the natural gas industry continues to accept no role, or certainly blame, insisting only that it will involve long scientific studies (which will take years to complete and cost millions of dollars) to sufficiently prove a link.
Check out our list of five ways fracking could be making you sick.
(Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Filthy Drinking Water
Poisoned water—both underground and on the surface—may not be as big an issue in Texas and Oklahoma (where drinking water doesn’t come from below the ground) but it is a huge deal across the Midwest and East (where underground aquifers supply much of the water that pours from people’s taps). The injection and explosion of hundreds of unnamed chemicals below ground is polluting the water and causing taps to light on fire. The tons of toxic wastewater that results from the fracking process is either being left in newly created ponds, injected back below earth, or in some instances dumped straight into nearby creeks and streams, endangering both humans and wildlife.
Radioactive Water and Gas
The earth below the surface is comprised of millions of years of tightly packed detritus that dates back to a time before dinosaurs. Encased in all that rock is a variety of potential poisons, including radon, radium and uranium—poisons that fracking is now unleashing. In Pittsburgh, for example, inexplicable levels of radiation are appearing in the wastewater (post-fracking). Radon, which happens to be the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, has even traveled through pipes to spew out of kitchen stoves. Would you be comfortable with fracking in your backyard?
(Photo: Bloomberg/Getty Images)
For every fracking well drilled into the ground, there’s a well-head on the surface to vent it. High levels of benzene—a cancer-causing pollutant proven to cause birth defects and leukemia—have been measuring venting from these well-heads. Air quality levels near hydro-fracked gas wells in Wyoming have measured worse than New York City and Los Angeles. One wonders how this could affect health insurance premiums.
Increased Smog and Asthma
It’s not just the drilling process that causes pollution, but also the industries that accompany it. These include the processing plants, the thousands of miles of pipeline built to deliver the gas, and the fleets of trucks that deliver all that water and sand. Diesel fumes alone have affected ozone and smog levels near drilling sites, upping smog levels and increasing asthma rates.
(Photo: Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)
Fork in the Road
It’s not only humans getting sick—so are the animals and land. In Louisiana, migrating birds have changed centuries-old flying patterns to avoid poisoned water, and ranchers have reported herds losing hair and fish dying in ponds. And the destruction of rural landscapes by the construction involved in building well-pads, pipelines, and roads is turning big parts of rural America into an industrial wasteland. This has angered Mark Ruffalo, the Incredible Hulk, who is taking a stand against fracking.