Drilling Poisons Both Water and AirMajor concerns about hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, as a means of extracting natural gas have centered on how toxic fracking fluids and methane injected into the ground can pollute water supplies. Now a new study published in the Journal of Environmental Health attests how fracking adversely impacts air quality, too.
Lead author David Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at New York’s University at Albany, is concerned that fracking sites show potential to develop cancer clusters in years to come. The study found eight different poisonous chemicals in groundwater near wells and fracking sites throughout Arkansas, Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wyoming at levels that exceeded federal limits, including levels of benzene and formaldehyde, both known carcinogens.
Approximately half of the air samples Carpenter analyzed exceeded federally recommended limits. Benzene levels were 35 to 770,000 times higher; hydrogen sulfide levels were 90 to 60,000 times higher; and formaldehyde levels were 30 to 240 times above a theoretically safe threshold. “Cancer has a long latency, so you’re not seeing an elevation in cancer in these communities [yet],” says Carpenter. “But five, 10, 15 or more years from now, elevation in cancer incidence is almost certain to happen.”