New report links an increased public cancer risk with fracking sites
Air pollution caused by hydraulic fracking has for the first time been linked to acute and chronic health problems for those living near the drilling sites, a new report has found. A three-year study by researchers at the Colorado School of Public Health has shown the process of hydraulic fracturing increases the levels of toxic gases in the local atmosphere, which include traces of cancer-causing chemicals.
"Our data show that it is important to include air pollution in the national dialogue on natural gas development that has focused largely on water exposures to hydraulic fracturing," said Lisa McKenzie, PhD, MPH, lead author of the study and research associate at the Colorado School of Public Health.
The study will be published in an upcoming edition of Science of the Total Environment.
The report, based on three years of monitoring, found a number of potentially toxic petroleum hydrocarbons in the air near the wells including benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene and xylene. Benzene has been identified by the Environmental Protection Agency as a known carcinogen. Other chemicals included heptane, octane and diethylbenzene but information on their toxicity is limited.
"Our results show that the non-cancer health impacts from air emissions due to natural gas development is greater for residents living closer to wells," the report said. "The greatest health impact corresponds to the relatively short-term, but high emission, well completion period."