Risks to human health are present at every step of the hydraulic fracturing gas extraction process.  This includes the potential for contamination of drinking water sources through surface spills, well casing failures, blowouts, and other events, migration of drilling and fracking fluids during drilling or fracking or over time to ground water sources and aquifers through naturally occurring fissures, well blow-outs and well casing failures, noise and VAD (Vibro-Acoustic Disease), radioactive contamination and air contamination by emissions from venting, pipeline leaks, compressor stations and the intense truck traffic required over each well’s life-cycle.


Despite these known hazards, the oil and gas industry is exempt from important provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and other federal environmental laws. The absence of federal regulatory oversight has left it up to individual states to regulate this industry and adequately enforce those regulations.



Many of the chemicals used in the fracking process are proven toxins.  These include benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, xylene, naphthalene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, methanol, formaldehyde, ethylene glycol, glycol ethers, hydrochloric acid, sodium hydroxide, and others, which are hazardous if inhaled, ingested, or contacted by the skin and are considered caustic, carcinogenic, mutagenic, and teratogenic.  Of the hundreds of chemicals tested by Endocrine Disruption Exchange, they report that 93% of them affect health and 43% are endocrine disruptors. Endocrine disruptors are man-made chemicals that, when absorbed into the body, mimic hormones or block hormones and disrupt the body’s normal function. They have been linked to infertility, ADHD, autism, diabetes, thyroid disorders.  Even childhood and adult cancers have been found to be linked to fetal exposure to endocrine disruptors.


In addition to the chemicals used in fracking, the wastewater that is a byproduct of the drilling process picks up salts, naturally occurring radioactive material, barium, magnesium and various other volatile organic compounds, which are also carcinogenic. It has been definitively concluded that the wastewater contains radioactivity and other toxic materials at levels that are frequently geometrically higher than the level that federal regulators say is safe for wastewater treatment plants to handle.


Exposure to any one or to combinations of this very long list of toxins carries adverse health effects that are also well known and include virtually every system of the body. Known adverse health effects include neurological, pulmonary, gastroenterological, dermatological, immunological, hematological, endocrinological, ophthalmological, reproductive, and genetic illnesses and abnormalities. Intense or chronic exposure to some of these toxins and combinations of toxins can result in death.

The time course for manifestation of illness related to the toxins associated with gas drilling may be months, years, or decades.  Environment-related cancers can take 15 to 30 years to develop. In Louisiana, where the petroleum industry is well established, parts of the state are called "cancer alley" as a result of higher lung, liver and other cancers associated with the industry.


Contrary to the hard evidence, the drilling industry loudly proclaims that toxic exposures to those living near drilling sites, downwind from drilling sites, and downstream from drilling sites do not take place.  This follows a pattern by other industries, such as the cigarette industry, to deny very obvious health consequences of using their “product”. In the 1970s the inhabitants of Love Canal finally succeeded in attracting attention to their plight only when they invited state and federal officials to visit their homes and to expose themselves to the noxious smells and visible chemical vapors and fumes that choked their throats and burned their eyes.


Crystal Stroud was a woman in good health before drilling began. She then started to experience loss of hair, tremors, heart palpitations, stomach cramps, loss of balance and slurred speech – symptoms often described by people at other drilling sites around the country. After a thorough investigation it was found that she had barium poisoning, which is extremely rare except for people who work and live near industrial sites.  Her well water was tested and found to be contaminated with levels of barium, chloride, strontium, manganese, lead, methane, radiological material, and radon. Her health improved somewhat when she stopped drinking her water.

In Dish, Texas, Mayor Calvin Tillman reports that air pollution from drilling has ruined the quality of life for residents. They report problems with nausea, headaches, breathing difficulties, chronic eye and throat irritation and brain disorders.  Results from a study by an environmental firm hired by the town and the Texas Railroad Commission found high levels of multiple chemicals used in fracking fluid, including benzene, toluene and xylene arsenic, barium, chromium, lead and selenium in residential water wells. Given the absence of such symptoms prior to drilling and with no other reasonable source of contamination identified, these findings point to inadequate containment of drilling associated toxins, resulting in correlated adverse health effects.

A recent study from Duke University confirms one plausible mechanism for exposure and adverse health effects related to drilling by demonstrating a significant increase of methane levels in the water supplies of communities near drilling sites. It is incumbent on our elected officials not to ignore this and other strong and compelling evidence and instead to use it to protect us from the dire consequences of unsafe gas drilling using hydrofracking. We cannot proceed blindly, compromising the quality of our water, air, and soils and significantly and negatively impact the health of our citizens for decades.

Prepared by Catskill Mountainkeeper,; [email protected]; 845 482-5400

Unbossed: Monday, June 12, 2006
Oil and Gas Drilling May Be Killing You – Part II

“My daughter, who was two years old at the time of the hydraulic fracturing would vomit every night when she would get out of the bath tub upon going to bed…”

- Thomas McKenzie, Repton, Alabama

So, you think that natural gas is a ‘clean fuel’? Well, think again. In fact, it may be killing you right now.

This morning I described the different points of air, soil and water contamination that occur during drilling and production. I also discussed some of the toxins associated with the natural gas industry and the effects they have on the human body. In Part II, we will look at the actual, on the ground impacts many families are encountering at the hands of this unregulated industry.

As natural gas drilling explodes around the western United States, very few people seem to be asking: what are the potential public health issues associated with this new form of industrialization? Will this industry result in a host of multi-generational diseases and health afflictions unparallel in American history? Click here to read the full story.

This story first appeared on ProPublica.

Natural Gas Drilling Rig Kills Cattle

16 cattle drop dead after apparently drinking from a mysterious fluid adjacent to a natural gas drilling rig.

—By Abrahm Lustgarten

ProPublica has been reporting for months about how natural gas drilling is affecting the environment, but of all the causes for concern we’ve reported, here’s a doozy.

Sixteen cattle dropped dead in a northwestern Louisiana field this week after apparently drinking from a mysterious fluid adjacent to a natural gas drilling rig, according to Louisiana’s Department of Environmental Quality and a report in the Shreveport Times. At least one worker told the newspaper that the fluids, which witnesses described as green and spewing into the air near the drilling derrick, were used for a drilling process called hydraulic fracturing. But the company, Chesapeake Energy, has not identified exactly what chemicals are in those fluids and is insisting to state regulators that no spill occurred.

The problem is that both Chesapeake and its contractor doing the work Schlumberger, say that a lot of these fluids are proprietary, said Otis Randle, regional manager for the DEQ. "It can be an obstacle, but we try to be fair to everybody," he said. "We try to remember that the products they use are theirs and they need them to make a living." 

July 30, 2008

"It felt like an appendicitis attack."

The family, which is poor enough to qualify for government food stamps, began buying bottled water for drinking and cooking. Their illnesses finally ended, and Farnelli found something to blame: natural gas drilling in the township of 1,400 people.

Dimock, in a former coal mining region that was economically struggling even before the recession, is one of hundreds of sites in Pennsylvania where energy companies are now racing to tap the massive Marcellus Shale natural gas formation.  Click here to read the full story.


Water worries Threaten U.S. Push for Natural Gas

By Jon Hurdle

PAVILLION, Wyoming (Reuters) – Louis Meeks, a burly 59-year-old alfalfa farmer, fills a metal trough with water from his well and watches an oily sheen form on the surface which gives off a faint odor of paint.

He points to small bubbles that appear in the water, and a thin ring of foam around the edge.

Meeks is convinced that energy companies drilling for natural gas in this central Wyoming farming community have poisoned his water and ruined his health.

A recent report by the Environmental Protection Agency suggests he just might have a case — and that the multi-billion dollar industry may have a problem on its hands. EPA tests found his well contained what it termed 14 "contaminants of concern."

It tested 39 wells in the Pavillion area this year, and said in August that 11 were contaminated. The agency did not identify the cause but said gas drilling was a possibility.  Click here to read the full story.



November 3, 2009

Health Issues Follow Natural Gas Drilling In Texas

by John Burnett

Vast new natural gas fields have opened up thanks to an advanced drilling technique. While natural gas is a cleaner burning fuel than coal or petroleum, extracting it is still hard, dirty work. Some people who live near the massive Barnett Shale gas deposit in north Texas, have complaints. Health and environmental concerns are prompting state regulators to take a closer look.

A boom in natural gas is underway. New gas fields have opened up thanks to an advanced drilling technique. It allows gas to be extracted from underground shale rock formations. Natural gas is a cleaner burning fuel than coal or petroleum, though extracting it is still hard, dirty work. And some people who live near some major gas projects are complaining. NPR’s John Burnett has this story from the massive Barnett Shale gas deposit in North Texas.

JOHN BURNETT: To date there are more than 12,000 gas wells in the Barnett Shale. It’s a vast rock formation that underlies 5,000 square miles surrounding Fort Worth. To get the gas to market requires an underground highway of pipelines and compression stations. These big internal combustion engines make noise and spew pollutants into the air day and night. State records show that in the past decade the number of gas compressors in the Barnett has jumped from a few hundred to 1,300, and they’re getting closer and closer to populated areas.

Mayor CALVIN TILMEN (Dish, Texas): My name is Calvin Tillman. I’m the mayor of a small town of Dish, Texas, the home of free Dish Network satellite TV, and it is also known for 11 natural gas compression stations. Click here to read the full story.Reuters

US Energy Future Hits Snag in Rural Pennsylvania

Friday 13 March 2009

by: Jon Hurdle

A glass of milky brown drinking water from a residential well in Dimock, Pennsylvania, after natural gas drilling operations began nearby.

Dimock, Pennsylvania – When her children started missing school because of persistent diarrhea and vomiting, Pat Farnelli began to wonder if she and her family were suffering from more than just a classroom bug.

After trying several remedies, she stopped using the water drawn from her well in this rural corner of northeastern Pennsylvania, the forefront of a drilling boom in what may be the biggest U.S. reserve of natural gas.

"I was getting excruciating stomach cramps after drinking the water," Farnelli said in an interview at her farmhouse, cluttered as a home with eight children would be, while her husband, a night cook at a truck stop, slept on the couch.

Gas Drilling Too Noisy For Some in Johnson County

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It’s called "Big Daddy." To neighbors who live near it, it’s a big deal. 

"I wish it would shut up," said neighbor Skip Bryant. "Big Daddy" is EOG Resources’ big compressor station that sits just south of Mansfield in Johnson County. It’s about the size of a small grocery store with four 20-foot tall turbine engines inside. 

The compressor station is necessary for EOG to extract natural gas from the ground as part of its drilling operations in the Barnett Shale. When CBS 11 News was on site, only the large fans inside the compressors were running. Although it was loud, neighbors say it’s nothing compared to when the engines fire up. 

"When I first moved out here, it was quiet," said Bryant. "Now I feel I’m living next to an airport. It’s a constant war." Neighbors say the compressors are at their loudest at night and during weekends, when residents such as Bob Walker like to relax outside. 

"Soon as I hear it, I think to myself, well I might as well go back inside," said Walker. 

Neighbors have complained in the past, so EOG built walls around the station. However, the energy company put up only 3 walls instead of four and a roof. Neighbors say as long as "Big Daddy" is not fully enclosed, life in the country is not the life they bargained for. 

"You never know when it’s going to turn on," said Debora Garza. "I can hear it throughout the house, and at times it has woken me up at night. It’s impossible to get any peace and quiet." 

EOG Resources released the following statement: "EOG Resources is concerned about its neighbors in the communities where we operate. We address operation site on a case by case basis to minimize the impact on our neighbors."