New Yale study links fracking to cancer-causing chemicals


New research from the Yale School of Public Health (YSPH) confirms that the majority of chemicals used in fracking are linked to known carcinogens. Yale researchers identified 55 known, probable, or possible carcinogens, including 20 compounds associated with leukemia and/or lymphoma specifically, that are potential water contaminants and/or air pollutants related to unconventional oil & gas development.

The study, “Unconventional oil and gas development and risk of childhood leukemia: Assessing the evidence” is published in Science of The Total Environment. The researchers assessed the carcinogenicity of 1,177 water pollutants and 143 air pollutants released by the fracking process and from fracking wastewater.

“Previous studies have examined the carcinogenicity of more selective lists of chemicals,” said lead author Nicole Deziel, Ph.D., assistant professor. “To our knowledge, our analysis represents the most expansive review of carcinogenicity of hydraulic fracturing-related chemicals in the published literature.”

One crucial aspect of this study is that researchers discovered 80 percent of the chemicals lacked sufficient data on cancer-causing potential, “highlighting an important knowledge gap.” Of the 119 compounds with sufficient data, 44 percent of the water pollutants and 60 percent of air pollutants were either confirmed or possible carcinogens. According to YSPH: “This analysis creates a priority list of carcinogens to target for future exposure and health studies.”

Fracking is now a fact of life in 30 states across the U.S., posing major risks to public health due to air and water contamination.

In 2013, The Wall Street Journal analyzed well location and census data for more than 700 counties in 11 major energy-producing states and found that at least 15.3 million Americans lived within a mile of a well that has been drilled since 2000, more people than live in Michigan or New York City.

Children are especially vulnerable to air pollution and water contamination caused by fracking. Environment America’s new report, Dangerous and Close revealed this disturbing data:

  • There are 1,947 child care facilities, 1,376 schools, 236 nursing care providers and 103 hospitals within a one-mile radius of fracked wells in the nine states examined. Often, these facilities are located close to more than one well and are also near compressor stations, pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure with impacts on public health.
  • More than 650,000 kindergarten through twelfth grade children attend school within one mile of a fracked well.
  • The highest percentage of children attending school close to fracked wells is in West Virginia, where 8 percent of children spend their school days within one mile of a fracked well.

According to the Yale study: “Childhood leukemia in particular is a public health concern related to [unconventional oil and gas] development, and it may be an early indicator of exposure to environmental carcinogens due to the relatively short disease latency and vulnerability of the exposed population.”

“Because children are a particularly vulnerable population, research efforts should first be directed toward investigating whether exposure to hydraulic fracturing is associated with an increased risk,” said Deziel.

Yale News reports: “The 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 there are exposed to these compounds, and if so, at what concentrations.”

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