Researchers Say More Scientific Study Needed On Fracking

By The Bakken magazine staff | September 22, 2014

Scientists studying fracking compounds say their research raises concerns about several commonly used ingredients.

According to results released in August during the 248th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), little is known about the potential health risks on one-third of the compounds used for fracking.

“It should be a priority to try to close that data gap,” said William Stringfellow, a member of the research team from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of the Pacific. He said the study was conducted to help resolve the public debate on fracking.
Researchers found only eight substances that raised concern, not thousands as suggested by some fracking critics. The substances identified as “red flags” included biocides and others considered “particularly toxic to mammals.”

 “The industrial side was saying, ‘We’re just using food additives, basically making ice cream here,’” Stringfellow said. “On the other side, there’s talk about the injection of thousands of toxic chemicals. As scientists, we looked at the debate and asked, ‘What’s the real story?’”

The researchers examined databases and reports to compile a list of substances commonly used in fracking. They include gelling agents to thicken the fluids, biocides to prevent microbes from growing, proppant sand and compounds to prevent pipe corrosion.

Although fracking fluids contain many nontoxic and food-grade materials, Stringfellow said being edible or biodegradable doesn’t necessarily mean disposing of them is a simple matter.

“You can’t take a truckload of ice cream and dump it down the storm drain,” he noted. “Even ice cream manufacturers have to treat dairy wastes, which are natural and biodegradable. They must break them down rather than releasing them directly into the environment.”
The study was funded by the University of the Pacific, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the state of California.