Health Impacts

Fracking poses health threats to our air, our water, and our safe, healthy communities.  Despite the risks, there are few regulations to protect our health and environment from this new and fast-growing industry.

Fracking can expose people to chemicals such as methane, BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes), arsenic, radium, ozone, formaldehyde, radon, nitrogen oxides, methylene chloride, and silica sand, among others. These chemicals can be especially dangerous to children and pregnant women, who are more vulnerable to potential health threats from chemical exposures. These and other chemicals from fracking are associated with low birth weight, birth defects, respiratory problems, cancer, and fertility problems. Fracking can also upend communities’ social systems, bringing traffic problems and creating industrial disruptions and noise, leading to increased rates of hypertension, sleep disturbance, cardiovascular disease and stroke. Because of the many health problems associated with fracking, the process also strains communities’ health care resources.

  • 75% of the chemicals have been linked to potential harm to skin, eyes, respiratory, and gastrointestinal systems.
  • 40-50% could affect the brain, kidneys, and the nervous, immune, and cardiovascular systems.
  • 37% could affect the endocrine system.
  • 25% are carcinogens and/or mutagens.

Fracking Fact graphic

The oil and gas industry claims that their fracturing fluid contains tiny amounts of chemicals, less than 1% of the mixture. But fracking uses millions of gallons of water per well, so even a small percentage of chemicals mixed in the water equals massive amounts of chemicals injected into the ground. A 2009 assessment by the New York Department of Environmental Protection found that each fracked well used from 80 tons to as many as 330 tons of chemicals. As much as half of the chemical-laced water returns to the surface as wastewater that is further contaminated with chemicals and radioactive particles from underground. Disposal of this wastewater creates additional water pollution and health threats.

Pollution from fracking, drilling, gas processing, gas leaks, and diesel exhaust can also make air more dangerous for communities near fracking sites. Communities near hydraulic fracturing sites have experienced increased air pollution from benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes (BTEX), as well as methane, radon, and other gases. Air pollution is especially threatening to infants and children, who face increased risks of asthma, allergies, bronchitis, and other respiratory problems.