Health issues related to fracking

In July 2011, Global Community Monitor released “Gassed”, a study of toxic air near natural gas operations in Colorado and New Mexico. When citizens became ill in large numbers and could not convince government agencies to respond to their concerns, they were trained by Global Community Monitor to take their own air samples. The samples were sent to a lab for analysis, and the results compiled. Citizen air sampling found four known carcinogens, including high levels of benzene and acrylonitrile, as well as toxins known to damage the nervous system and respiratory irritants. 

From a letter by Sandra Steingraber, Ph.D, co-signed by various cancer, and physician organizations: 

  • Fracking pollutes the air with known and suspected human carcinogens. Air pollutants from fracking take the form of diesel exhaust (from trucks, pumps, condensers, earthmoving machines, and other heavy equipment) along with volatile organic compounds, including benzene (released from the wellheads themselves) and formaldehyde (produced by compressor station engines). Exposure to these air pollutants have been demonstrably linked to lung, breast, and bladder cancers (Brody et al., 2007; Liu et al., 2009). 

  • Using US EPA risk assessment tools to examine carcinogenic effects of air quality at oil and gas sites, researchers in Colorado found excess cancer risks from air pollution alone (from 5 to 58 additional cancers per million). At 86 percent of these sites, the human carcinogen benzene was found at hazardous levels. Airborne concentrations of other carcinogens were also elevated (Witter et al., 2008). Volatile organic compounds can combine with tailpipe emissions to create ground-level ozone.

  • We are alarmed by studies conducted in the gas fields of Wyoming that reveal ozone nonattainment in areas with formerly pristine air quality (Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, 2009). Ozone can travel up to 200 miles beyond the gas production area (Colborn, et al., 2011). While not a direct carcinogen, ozone exposure is strongly associated with premature death and is believed to promote the development of metastases, thus making cancer more lethal (Breslin, 1995; Fann et al., 2011). Exposure to traffic exhaust and petroleum fumes further potentiates tumor formation and increase cancer risk (Hanas et al., 2010).
A slide from the presentation by Dr. Liz Clark at the Greeley

  • Most ominously, research is steadily corroborating the relationship between childhood leukemia and traffic density, and childhood leukemia and exposure to airborne benzene (Amigou et al., 2011; Pearson, Wachtel, & Ebi, 2000; Whitworth, Symanski, & Coker, 2008)

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