5 Risks of Fracking for Human Health

“Fracking is the worst thing I’ve ever seen,”
says Fracking and Health Researcher


The phrase in the subheading is attributed to Dr. Sandra Steingraber, a public health specialist involved in large-scale research into the effects of fracking on human health. When fracking began, it wasn’t usually done close to towns, schools, or drinking water sources. But now, in many U.S. states, it is happening within short distances of highly populated areas, and people are getting sick.

The Risks of Fracking for Human Health

  • Air pollution: People living close to active fracking wells breathe air with a high content of carcinogenic substances, such as benzene. This can have consequences like a higher risk of asthma, preterm births, and a variety of health problems, especially for children, but also for adults.

    In the case of pregnant residents of fracking areas, toxic chemicals can affect the development of the fetus, begetting conditions that may not show any symptoms for years. Yet certain symptoms in children are immediately visible. Researcher Katherine Nolan describes the ordeal of a Pennsylvania family, “They would see a yellow fog, kind of like a chemical mist coming from the compressor station... Their two youngest children, nine and 11, started having tics where their muscles would go into spasms, those spasms would persist even when they were asleep.”

  • Human-induced earthquakes: Fracking areas have experience a dramatic surge in the number of earthquakes per year. In Texas, for example, there was an average of two per year before the shale revolution. Since 2008, 12 to 15 earthquakes have been recorded yearly. 

  • Water pollution: Fracking produces massive amounts of wastewater with a high content of radioactive elements. Carcinogenic and often flammable, this polluted water is usually injected back into the earth (sometimes causing earthquakes) and unsafely transported in trucks that have been known to overturn and spill the hazardous material into drinking water sources. A resident who visited the site of a fracking wastewater truck accident in Ohio, a week after the vehicle overturned, explains,  “About an hour and twenty minutes later all the fingers on my left hand were burning underneath my fingernails.” 

    In the documentary, “Gasland,” a fracking site resident is seen lighting up the water coming out of his kitchen tap. In “Drill, baby, drill,” Pennsylvania and Poland homeowners observe black water coming out of the taps in their homes. A recent investigation by ProPublica revealed, “a string of documented cases of gas escaping into drinking water – in Pennsylvania and other states.”

    According to a Public Health analysis from Yale University, people living within one mile of fracking sites are at a higher risk of developing cancer. This affects millions of Americans all over the country. Epidemiological studies have shown the number of cases of childhood leukemia grows steadily when fracking begins. But other cancers may be brewing, taking years to develop.

  • High risk of fires and explosions: There have been many explosions and leaks at fracked gas pipelines. Compressor stations used to re-pressurize the gas emit carcinogenic substances, including benzene, methane, and formaldehyde.

  • Risks for Fracking Site Workers: According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, fracking endeavors have created 1.7 million new jobs.Dr. Steingraber refers to these as, “killing jobs.” For example, fracking workers have been found to have high levels of benzene in their urine; a known indicator for leukemia risk.

    Randy Moyer, a man who used to haul fracking wastewater for transportation in trucks, says, “If you asked too many questions, you were labeled a tree-hugger and you were gone.” Like Moyer, many fracking workers do not receive any safety gear, let alone information about the contents of the material they are handling. Moyer summarizes the effects of exposure to radioactive materials on his health as follows, “My tongue, lips, and limbs all swelled up. I’ve had three teeth snap off... I have burning rashes all over my body that jump from place to place.” Like countless others, Moyer has seen dozens of specialists in two states, but never received a clear diagnosis. Scientists have, in fact, pointed to a pact of silence among medical professionals and consistent under-reporting by companies about work-related injuries.

As America’s oil and gas industry continues to claim that fracking is perfectly safe, people are dying of cancer, children are being born with malformations and developing leukemia, asthma is rampant, and workers are continually exposed to hazardous levels of radioactive material.

According to an industry spokeswoman, “hydraulic fracturing is not leading to widespread, systemic effects to drinking water resources.” But the 1,200 peer-reviewed articles on the public health risks of fracking say otherwise. As some states criminalize anti-fracking protests, Americans who have been affected, injured, or killed as a result of fracking operations must come forward and hold the culprits accountable. 

If you or a loved one has been a victim, you may be entitled to substantial compensation. In the current scenario, multi-million-dollar settlements and verdicts may be the only leverage we have to demand safety and controls that can protect our environment, and, ultimately, our lives.

Williams Attorneys is known for taking on major oil and gas companies on behalf of seriously injured victims and their families; both on a single injury basis and as class actions. If you or a loved one are facing serious health issues due to living near fracking sites, we want to talk to you about your options.  844-558-4529 OR CONNECT ONLINE