New study finds frac’ing chemicals hazardous
A total of 944 chemicals used to extract natural gas, some of which are said to cause serious health problems for humans, have been identified in a recently released study by an organization based in Paonia.The study found that at least 73 of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, or “frac’ing,” were found to have “10 or more adverse health effects” and should be considered potentially hazardous to humans.The gas industry has long argued that frac’ing is a critical tool in the ongoing search for energy resources, because it allows access to underground reserves that had been out of reach.The industry also maintains that there has been no scientific evidence to show that the chemicals used in frac’ing have contaminated ground water or domestic water wells.Critics of the industry, however, say there is no evidence because the industry has successfully squelched efforts to conduct studies that might find such evidence.And in Garfield County, a number of residents have claimed to have been fallen seriously ill after gas wells have been drilled near their homes.
The study was drafted, in part, by scientist Theo Colborn, president of The Endocrine Disruption Exchange [TEDX] and author of numerous scientific publications about chemical compounds that alter the development of humans and other animals.She is a professor at the University of Florida, and one of the authors of a book, “Our Stolen Future,” which details the argument that manmade chemicals can interfere with the body’s production of hormones, starting as early as conception in a mother’s womb.The latest study, issued by TEDX, looked at a variety of sources for information about the chemicals used in the frac’ing process, which involves pumping as much as a million gallons of fluid, sand and chemicals into a well bore to break up deep rock formations and make it easier for gas and oil to flow to the surface.Not everyone agrees with the study’s findings, though.According to David Ludlam of the Western Slope office of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, “Dr. Colborn is a nice lady with good intentions. But if past performance is a reliable indicator, the uncompromising activists who often fund her work will likely be the only ones excited about her new product. Having said that, adequate review time must be allowed to determine if data gaps and conjecture continue to constitute a portion of her findings.”And on Sept. 30, the Independent Petroleum Association of America sent a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency [EPA], protesting the nomination of Colborn and another professor to serve on an advisory panel established to assist the agency with a federally-mandated study of the issues and questions surrounding the frac’ing controversy (see related story, page A4).The two professors, according to the IPAA, are too biased against the industry to be acceptable as advisors to the agency.
The sources cited in the TEDX study included Material Safety Data Sheets [MSDS], explanatory documents that “accompany each product used during natural gas operations,” according to the study.The MSDS documents have long been cited by industry representatives as evidence that the chemicals used in the processes are not secret, as has been argued by critics of the gas industry for years.But, states the TEDX report, the MSDS “are fraught with gaps in information about the formulation of the products.” The report states that it is left to the manufacturers to decide what data is revealed on an MSDS, and that there is little or no oversight concerning how comprehensive the MSDS documents are.The same gaps, according to Colborn’s report, are to be found in state-generated Tier II Reports that must be filed by facilities that store the chemicals in question. According to the TEDX report, these reports also say little about the actual makeup of the chemicals, and “some … include only a functional category name [e.g. ‘weight materials’ or ‘biocides’] with no product name.”Another potential source of information about the chemicals, according to the report, was the Chemical Abstract Service (CAS) number system designed by the American Chemical Society as a way to identify chemicals being used for a variety of purposes. The study examined “only the chemicals … for which CAS numbers were available,” according to the document, seeking to determine the potential health effects based on a list of 12 categories established for the study.Those categories, according to the report, include “developmental and reproductive health impacts” that range from skin and eye irritation to respiratory problems, damage to the liver, brain and nervous system, immunological trouble, cancer and disruption of the endocrine system – the network of glands that produce hormones and regulate various functions of the human body.The study reportedly was partly paid for by a grant from the EPA, which has yet to reveal whether it endorses Colborn’s findings, or will incorporate those findings into any report that the EPA produces.But the 29-page paper that came out of Colborn’s study has been accepted for publication in the international journal of Human and Ecological Risk Assessment, published by the Taylor & Francis Group of Pennsylvania.firstname.lastname@example.org
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