The U.S. has been engaging in fracking (hydraulic fracturing of the earth’s rock to mine for gas) for over two decades now* and the scientific research has been studying the effects of toxic chemicals used for fracking (which leach into ground water and enter the air space)** throughout those twenty years. At this point, one thing has become glaringly evident: There is growing scientific evidence of a correlation between the oil industry’s fracking activities and an array of serious health problems*** ranging from lung cancer in adults and childhood cancer like leukemia****, to the premature death of elderly people, to weight gain/obesity, to respiratory issues including asthma, to heart disease and endocrine disruption. (Commonly reported health effects that are increasingly linked to fracking include some cancers, low birth weight, disruptions to the endocrine system, nose bleeds, headaches, nausea, and weight gain.)
In 2022 the nonprofit Physicians for Social Responsibility and Concerned Health Professionals of New York, which consists of health professionals, scientists, and medical organizations, published its most recent compendium of investigations into risks and harms linked with fracking. Since 2014, the compendium has tallied 2,239 peer-reviewed scientific papers that found evidence of harm to human health from fracking, with nearly 1,000 of those papers published since 2018.
There’s no longer any doubt that fracking hurts human health
“There are enough studies now that show that fracking threatens the health of workers and communities and threatens the mental and physical health of people who work nearby and children who go to school nearby. There’s enough of those associations now between fracking and bad health outcomes that should be informing regulators, politicians, and industry that there needs to be a better way.”
-Dr. Ned Ketyer, president of Physicians for Social Responsibility, Pennsylvania (source)
* As of 2022, an astounding 79 percent of US natural gas and 65 percent of crude oil is now produced by fracking, with more than 17.6 million people living within a mile of a fracked oil or gas well. The result, say scientists, is a public health crisis.
** The cocktails of toxic chemicals injected a mile or more underground to crack open gas-bearing fissures in shale threaten groundwater supplies—including drinking water—and that diesel fumes from trucks and generators on well pads erode air quality. People living near gas wells may be exposed via drinking water to chemicals used in fracking—or from spills of the millions of gallons of wastewater that is pumped out of wells during the process.
***See our previous posts highlighting scientific evidence that toxic fracking chemicals are linked with significant health problems:
**** In 2022, the Yale School of Public Health published a study in Environmental Health Perspectives that found children between the ages of two and seven living near gas wells in four heavily fracked counties of southwestern Pennsylvania are two to three times more likely to be diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), the most common kind of childhood leukemia, than children who do not live near fracking-related gas development.