Yale Study Shows Fracking Linked to Dozens of Cancer-Causing CompoundsOct 26, 2016
Study By Researchers At The Yale School
A new study by researchers at the Yale School of Public Health (YSPH) confirms that a number of carcinogenic chemicals involved in the controversial oil and gas drilling process hydraulic fracturing could potentially contaminate air and water in communities near fracking sites.
Hydraulic fracturing-fracking-is a fairly common technique in the energy industry in the United States. The technique is used in 30 states and millions of people live within a mile of a fracking site, according to YSPH.
Fracking is the process injecting water, sand, and chemicals deep into the earth at high pressure to fracture the rock layer and release stores of oil and natural gas. The Yale study suggests that carcinogens involved in or released by fracking operations have the potential to increase the risk of childhood leukemia. The presence of chemicals alone does not confirm exposure or risk of exposure to carcinogens. The Yale researchers not that additional studies are needed to evaluate cancer risk. The new study was published in the journal Science of the Total Environment.
Lead author Nicole Deziel, Ph.D., as assistant professor, says that because children are a "particularly vulnerable" population, research should be directed toward investigating whether exposure to hydraulic fracturing is associated with an increased cancer risk. Childhood leukemia is a particular concern because of the severity of the disease and its short latency period.
Yale Team Examined More Than A Thousand Chemicals
The Yale team examined a list of more than a thousand chemicals that may be released into air or water as a result of fracking. "Previous studies have examined the carcinogenicity of more selective lists of chemicals," Deziel said. "To our knowledge, our analysis represents the most expansive review of carcinogenicity of hydraulic fracturing-related chemicals in the published literature."
According to the findings, there was insufficient data on the cancer-causing potential of the majority of chemicals (about 80 percent). But of the 119 compounds involved in fracking for which there is sufficient data, 44 percent of the water pollutants and 60 percent of air pollutants are either confirmed or possible carcinogens. Some of these chemicals could be released into both air and water. The study revealed a total of 55 unique compounds with carcinogenic potential, according to YSPH. Twenty chemicals had evidence of increased risk for leukemia or lymphoma. YSPH says the new study creates a priority list of carcinogens to target for future health studies.
Fracking has increased dramatically in recent years, and the practice is expected to continue to grow. Fracking increases the production of domestic oil and natural gas and decreases prices, but the technique is controversial for a number of reasons. In addition to concerns over the carcinogens involved, the process uses significant amounts of water, which can place a strain on the local water supply near a fracking site. Proper disposal of the chemical-laced water is another concern. Fracturing the shale layer has been linked to an increase in earthquake activity in Oklahoma, Ohio and other states.
The Yale team has begun been testing air and water samples for some of these known and suspected carcinogens in a community with particularly intense exposure to fracking to evaluate whether people in the area are exposed to these compounds, and if so, at what concentrations.
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