Fracking Fluid Contains A Stew Of Known Toxic Chemicals — And That May Not Be The Worst Of It
Arsenic, benzene, formaldehyde, lead and mercury are among more than 200 toxins found in fracking fluids and wastewater that may pose serious risks to reproductive and developmental health, according to a paper published on Wednesday.
And that list may just be just the tip of the iceberg, said Nicole Deziel, an environmental health expert at the Yale School of Public Health and senior author of the new study.
Many more chemicals known to be used in fracking could pose similar risks, yet remain unstudied, Deziel said. Other substances involved in oil and natural gas production remain undisclosed by fracking companies.
In their study, Deziel and her team investigated more than 1,000 chemicals used in and created by the controversial drilling process, which shoots a mix of pressurized water, sand and chemicals into shale rock to unlock hydrocarbon reserves. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency used the same list in its assessment of the available science, which found no evidence that fracking has led to widespread, systemic contamination of drinking water.
For most of the chemicals, insufficient information thwarted the researchers’ efforts to determine potential toxicity.
“That’s not really surprising,” said Deziel. “There are thousands of chemicals in commerce that people are routinely exposed to and for which we have limited data.” (Hence, the major push to overhaul the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, which environmentalists argue doesn’t give the EPA enough authority to study and regulate chemicals.)
Of the 240 chemicals for which the Yale team did have adequate data, they found that 157 were associated with some kind of reproductive or developmental problem, such as adverse birth outcomes, derailed brain development or infertility.