For those that don’t know, “fracking” is a common process utilized to extract natural gas, petroleum, and other substances from reservoir rock formations being drilled into. Although this process has been around since the late 1940’s, the practice has grown significantly in recent years.
Concerns have also recently escalated about possible health risks related to fracking that are causing many groups to further investigate this process. Specifically, the process involves pumping millions of gallons of chemically treated water underground to break up rock formations and release trapped gas. Many claim that this practice causes considerable air pollution and water contamination.
Because various agencies like the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry have received numerous complaints from citizens who live in communities with gas wells, citing symptoms like respiratory issues and nausea, the Institute of Medicine has decided to further investigate this process of hydraulic fracturing.
Whether or not the companies actually believe that their practices may be hurting people is a whole other story, but one thing that no one can argue about is the fact that there is a substantial amount of evidence citing health risks relating to fracking. In fact, a recent study that was released in March of 2012 by the Colorado School of Public Health noted that air pollution from fracking may cause “acute and chronic health problems for those living near natural gas drilling sites.” Within this study, various sites around Colorado were monitored for over three years and it was discovered that many of these sites have “potentially toxic petroleum hydrocarbons in the air near the wells including benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene and xylene.”
It is known that within the state of Colorado, companies are allowed to drill within 150 feet of a person’s home. Because of this, the Colorado School of Public Health’s study noted that anyone living within a half-mile of a drilling site faced a significantly larger health risk than those living further away. This study also noted from previous research that people being exposed to petroleum hydrocarbons in the air for a significant amount of time posed “an increased risk of eye irritation and headaches, asthma symptoms, acute childhood leukemia, acute myelogenous leukemia, and multiple myeloma.”
Unfortunately, while the Environmental Protection Agency has come out and implemented new rules surrounding air pollution at these drilling sites, it appears that these regulations won’t actually take effect until at least 2015. While many proponents of fracking may claim that the only people wanting tighter regulation are those living in small drilling communities, a recent Bloomberg poll actually showed that 65% of the U.S. is in favor of tighter fracking regulations, even though this technique has reduced prices for so many consumers.
As recently as January of 2012, Norma Fiorentino, a Pennsylvania resident has sued Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation because she, along with her neighbors, claim that Cabot lead to their local well blowing up in January of 2009. They are also stating that Cabot has caused contamination within the well and has left trace amounts of both toxic chemicals and methane. The holdup right now in the case seems to be that Fiorentino’s lawyer hasn’t “been able to prove that chemicals injected thousands of feet underground migrate upward into drinking aquifers located just a few hundred feet below the surface.”
While further investigation is occurring, it is interesting to note that since August of 2009; at least 23 cases involving fracking have been filed. Various companies like Southwestern Energy Co. and Chesapeake Energy Corp have been involved in major lawsuits. In fact, although Chesapeake recently settled in December of 2011 with two Texas citizens who claimed that Chesapeake polluted their well, Southwestern’s lawsuit is still going on and active because Southwestern is denying claims that their company polluted various families’ drinking wells.
With more of these studies coming out showing how dangerous fracking can be for people’s health, many people can only hope that the EPA will continue to investigate and hopefully implement tighter regulations sooner than 2015. Only time will tell.
This article was written by David Nance on behalf of the team at http://www.medicalcodingandbillingcertification.net/; be sure to visit MCBC in the near future.