Activism

Published on March 5th, 2013 | by Don Lieber

17

Fracking In The Age Of Cancer

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March 5th, 2013 by

In 1794 Thomas Paine released “The Age of Reason“, a call to abandon blind loyalty to institutionalized religion.The title of Paine’s work can also be applied to today’s fracking industry — in the age of cancer.

In 2012 alone there were 1,600,000 newly diagnosed cancer discoveries in the United States. Some 1,500 people die of cancer every day, according to the American Cancer Society. It is the second leading cause of death in the United States — accounting for one of every four deaths.  

Is this the time to proceed with the massive introduction of fracking into our society?

One in every three fracking operations in the US use known cancer-causing agents — this according to voluntary reporting by the natural gas industry itself. The three most common carcinogens, according to the industry, are naphthalenebenzyl chloride, and formaldehyde.

In fact, nobody knows exactly which chemicals, or how much, are used in hydraulic fracturing operations. The industry fights hard to keep specific ingredients used in the process secret; there exists no uniform national disclosure law for fracking and, in one of the more extreme travesties of transgenerational justice in world, the process is exempt from most environmental oversight due to the 2004 “Haliburton Loophole” enacted under the administration of President George W. Bush.

Further, the industry has lobbied, successfully, to ban doctors from discussing with their patients the links between symptoms and the chemicals used in fracking. The State of Pennsylvania forbids doctors from warning the community of water and air contaminants linked to fracking chemicals; indeed, The New England Journal of Medicine last year cited the fracking industry as “infringing on the patient-physician relationship”.

No less of a tree-hugging, liberal extremist group as Bloomberg Business News reported that “fracking secrets by the thousands keep US clueless on wells.”

To be fair, the industry does provide — on a voluntary basis — some information about the ingredients it uses to blow up the Earth’s bedrock formations hundreds of feet underground. It probably is quite happy, of course, that nobody ever hears about it — drowned out, certainly, by the noise made from its multi-million dollar TV ad campaigns and political contributions.

Still, a study of the SkyTruthFrackingChemicalDataBase (a voluntary industry self-reporting system) found 11,586 separate instances of recognized carcinogens used in hydraulic fracturing operations during the 20 months the database covers. Three known carcinogens were reported most frequently: naphthalenebenzyl chloride and formaldehyde.

Other known carcinogens found in the fracking process include Toluene, Benzene, Lead, Crystalline Silica and Sulfuric Acid — and many more.

DownloadedFile

industry-created pro-fracking logo

Studies which document the health hazards of fracking are increasing. One report, by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, predicts that ‘hundreds of tons’ of toxic chemicals from the fracking process would ‘likely’ be dispersed into the water supply.

Another recent study from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSHA) found high levels of silica dust used in fracking operations. The study documented dangerously high levels of silica dust at 79% of all fracking sites tested.

Silica dust has plagued miners and construction workers throughout history.  It  causes silcosis — an incurable lung disease. Once contracted, people “can live a few years or a few months“, according to the American Lung Association.

The study led OSHA to issue, in June 2012, an official “Hazard Alert” for workers at fracking sites.

The alert — seen here – provides clear information about the dangers of silicon dust in fracking, yet also reflects a continued hands-off, industry-friendly approach of the federal government towards the fracking industry. The alert offers suggestions for workers and industry to  ‘minimize risks’  (including using alternative chemicals “when possible”) — while making no mention whatsoever of any potential regulatory action to either limit or restrict the use of this highly toxic substance in the first place.

This should come as no surprise, as the report and subsequent hazard alert were both produced in partnership with oil and gas industry leaders and trade associations.

Fracking has been associated with severe water contamination, toxic air pollution and, due to the methane involved, as an important contributor to climate change. In an era of public health so consumed by cancer (annual cost is currently estimated at $200 billion), fracking’s relationship to cancer ought to be given greater public scrutiny in the ongoing debate.

Thomas Paine said “What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly“. Fracking has already obtained significant wealth — and thus, some esteem — all very lightly, while the predictable leukemias, lymphomas, and lung cancers merit barely a whisper beyond a toothless alert penned in part by the very industry in question.

In today’s Age of Cancer, the Age of Reason merits another look.

Authors Note – the author, in addition to journalism, is a surgical technologist on the intra-operative nursing staff at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center New York.

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About the Author

Don Lieber has written extensively on international human rights, war and disarmament, and climate justice. His writings have have been published by the United Nations, The Associated Press, The International Campaign to Ban Landmines, The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, DeSmog Blog, E-The Environmental Magazine, and others. He is a frequent contributor to PlanetSave. When not writing about climate change, he plays bass for the NYC-based band "Wifey".



  • btstump

    I think your first and third points should be moved to the bottom and the last point should be moved to the top. It’s not about being green, it’s about saving green. I know at least three people in ATL that bought a Leaf because the tax credits outweigh the cost of driving the EV.

  • Scorpio800

    “I am paying the $35 per year for my LEAF’s AFV tag, which is the equivalent buying 180 gallons of gas”. Where is this dude buying gas? And you get unlimited access to HOV lanes for the $35 too?

    Bottom line is people are buying this car because it is subsidized. I will buy one primarily because it is subsidized. I like the idea of not buying gas, and think it is good for the environment (obviously not if you include the manufacturing process). That being said, I’m not smoking enough “green” to believe that global warming, or climate change, or whatever the press and Democrats will call it tomorrow, has been definitively as a risk to the earth’s future, that we need to blow up the world economy to mitigate it. The climate has changed continuously for billions of years. Giving politicians control of more pieces of the economy will not change that. Sorry.

  • JayTee

    A. Fossil fuel subsidies are miniscule compared to renewable fuel, and electric car subsidies. Especially per unit of energy.

    B. Record low temperatures aren’t evidence of global warming.

    C. Given the first five bulleted advantages of electrics, why should we need the sixth?

  • Barsby Booth

    You would think Georgia’s recent snowfall would give people a climate hint about whether to support EVs.

  • sherrie

    And BTW, thanks, Don; Odds are, you’re at least as busy as the rest of us. So we ALL can take some time to , for example, promote awareness among friends.It takes me literally less than a minute to advocate for a more breathable, less cancerous future !!!!!

  • sherrie

    And BTW, thanks, Don; Odds are, you’re at least as busy as the rest of us. So we ALL can take some time to , for example, promote awareness among friends.It takes me literally less than a minute to advocate for a more breathable, less cancerous future !!!!!

  • sherrie

    No, it’s not a good time to go on with the massive introduction of fracking. There will never be such a time.

    Aside from looking @ how I/ we can proactively affect this issue, I find myself yet again reflexively wondering what the ___ is wrong with the socio-emotionally crippled slimes who are just fine with the concept of promoting increased suffering and misery.

    Let’s K E E P O N our LEGISLATORS – though they may be rightfully afraid of Gas/Oil biz, the least we can do is keep making noise. And I’m pretty sure that’s to be considered the least!– b/c doing /saying nothing is not an option!

    Read the links Don has provided if you’re not sure about that..

  • sherrie

    No, it’s not a good time to go on with the massive introduction of fracking. There will never be such a time.

    Aside from looking @ how I/ we can proactively affect this issue, I find myself yet again reflexively wondering what the ___ is wrong with the socio-emotionally crippled slimes who are just fine with the concept of promoting increased suffering and misery.

    Let’s K E E P O N our LEGISLATORS – though they may be rightfully afraid of Gas/Oil biz, the least we can do is keep making noise. And I’m pretty sure that’s to be considered the least!– b/c doing /saying nothing is not an option!

    Read the links Don has provided if you’re not sure about that..

  • Tony

    There is also lots of dihydrogenoxide. That stuff will kill you.

    • Tony

      Oops. Make that dihydrogenMONoxide

  • Tony

    There is also lots of dihydrogenoxide. That stuff will kill you.

    • Tony

      Oops. Make that dihydrogenMONoxide

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