Fracking is Fine (Just Hold Your Breath)

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You may have been shocked by this recent headline: “Dead babies near oil drilling sites raise questions for researchers.” But if you have been following the national debate about fracking, you are likely to be all too familiar with the concerns that community members have about pollution from this new drilling technology.

In fact, the CEH report on health risks to women and children living near fracking operations found serious reasons for concern. Chemicals used in fracking and/or created by fracking operations have been linked to low birth weight, birth defects, respiratory problems, infertility, and cancer, among other serious problems.

Now there’s a new fracking problem

There has been much attention to water pollution risks from fracking, but there has been less research into air quality around fracking sites.  A new study, co-authored by CEH’s Research Director Caroline Cox and published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health, shines light on fracking air pollution risks. Along with the study, a report, Warning Signs: Toxic Air Pollution Identified at Oil and Gas Development Sites details the results from the sampling.

The results from the air testing were not reassuring. One sample had air pollution levels that could pose an immediate danger to life or health, according to Centers for Disease Control guidelines. Benzene, a chemical known to cause cancer, was detected at sample locations in Pennsylvania and Wyoming, in levels exceeding health-based standards by several orders of magnitude. Another carcinogen, formaldehyde, was detected in locations in three states at levels exceeding the health-based standards of the U.S. EPA.

We can rein in the fracking industry

The oil and gas industry intends to spread fracking across the country, regardless of the health, climate, or safety concerns. What’s worse, fracking is exempt from most federal environmental rules, so states often have no way to adopt protective regulations.

We need government action to rein in the fracking industry. Regulators should require more comprehensive air monitoring and pollution prevention standards. Communities should have the right to know about all chemicals used in fracking. Residents of affected communities should be directly involved in decision making before fracking can go forward.

The EPA can take stronger steps to protect Americans from fracking health risks. Take action to urge EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to protect our health and the environment from fracking risks!

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