8 Environmental and Health Dangers of Fracking
One of the most hotly debated oil and gas exploration methods currently in use is fracking. With a wide range of studies both for and against it, it’s easy to get confused about the facts regarding this innovative technology. In our article, we’re going to explore eight of the biggest dangers of fracking for both the environment and you.
Environmental Dangers of Fracking
With less than three percent of the Earth’s water being fresh, access to clean and safe drinking water is paramount for all of us. Unfortunately, one of the biggest dangers of fracking is the potential negative impact it could have on our drinking water supplies.
The reason for this lies in how fracking works. The goal of fracking is to release trapped oil and gas that is buried beneath most water tables. To do this, high-pressure fracking mixtures are applied throughout tunnels below the water table. However, as the oil and gas are transported up the pipe, there is the potential for leaks to occur. In addition, most experts are worried about the fracking liquids potentially seeping into the water table as well.
As for the environment, greenhouse emissions is another one of the unfortunate consequences of fracking activity. While carbon dioxide is often the most cited culprit, methane is actually a far more harmful greenhouse gas emission type.
The reason for this is the methane traps an estimated 25 times more heat in the atmosphere than an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide. Unfortunately, some scientists have estimated that fracking wells may be leeching as much as four percent of their total methane output into the atmosphere. This has the potential to completely negate any greenhouse gas emission reductions that were originally cited when researching this technology.
Just like any other human activity, the potential for habitat displacement is one of the biggest environmental issues associated with fracking. In many cases, trapped oil and gas deposits are located in some of the most environmentally sensitive areas on earth.
In many of these places, a wide variety of protected species live that could see their populations further decimated with additional issues like habitat loss. For fracking operations to be successful, a wide range of high-tech machinery has to be brought in. From massive storage containers to miles of piping that lead to processing stations, the amount of land needed to clear out for a fracking operation is extremely large.
Soil contamination is another very real risk associated with fracking. In most cases, wells have to dig extremely far below the surface of the earth to reach shale reserves where oil and gas deposits are trapped.
As mentioned earlier, the fracking liquid is pumped below ground at extremely high temperatures to fracture the surrounding rock below ground to allow the oil and gas to escape. As the solution is pulled to the surface, it is still under extreme amounts of pressure. Any small tear in the pipe could send toxic chemicals flooding across the surrounding land. This would completely ruin the surrounding soil for livestock and other agricultural purposes.
While many individuals may think that fracking is safer than traditional offshore drilling operations, this is not necessarily the case. Fracking uses a wide range of industrial solvents and other chemicals that can be particularly harmful to the environment.
Unfortunately, the safety record for the fracking industry as a whole has proven to be less than stellar. In just eight different states, an EPA study found that approximately 457 spills occurred from 2006 to 2012. To make things worse, many of these spills occurred in fairly high population areas.
Health Dangers of Fracking
Another one of the biggest dangers of fracking is the potential carcinogens that it may be releasing in the immediate area. A wide variety of the VOC substances that are used in many of the solvents at fracking sites have been detected in the nearby air supply.
Some examples of these chemical substances include benzene, formaldehyde, PAHs. With continued exposure, it’s entirely possible that these chemicals could lead to an increase in cancer rates in humans. Unfortunately, the amount of long-term research on fracking exposure and humans is fairly limited at this time.
Potential respiratory issues are another one of the dangers of fracking that many people may not know about. Common symptoms include shortness of breath and wheezing. These types of issues are most likely to occur in elderly individuals as well as those with compromised immune systems. In addition, children who are exposed have an increased chance of developing a respiratory condition like bronchitis later in life.
In most cases, these issues are more likely to occur in areas that are close to the fracking site. However, some studies have linked increased respiratory complications to towns that simply surround major oil and gas processing plants as well.
Sleep Deprivation and Noise Disturbances
Sleep deprivation is another one of the potential dangers of fracking that many people may completely forget about. Since fracking uses high-pressure gas to force openings in cracks deep below the Earth’s surface, a wide variety of noisy mechanical equipment is required.
Some common examples include generators, air compressors, as well as specialized hydraulic pumps. Unfortunately, all of this equipment can be quite loud. It can lead to sleep deprivation for people the live too close. In addition, these type of loud noises can also prove to be very disrupting to local wildlife that may breed in the surrounding areas as well.
Fracking does have a lot to offer us; it can help serve as an additional source of oil and gas for years to come. However, the eight dangers of fracking that we covered demonstrate that this technology is not as safe as it would initially appear. We should keep these facts in mind and work to create legislation to better protect us and the environment. If you have thoughts on fracking, tell us about them below.