Could Fracking be Causing Cancer? This Experiment's Results Say YES... and Quite Rapidly, Too!
According to statistics from the U.S. Energy Information Administration,
natural gas now powers about 33 percent of the US electrical grid, but
the technique that's used to extract oil from the ground today is much
different from the drilling methods of the past. To speed up the
process, a high-tech method was invented called high-volume horizontal
hydraulic fracturing. While we still call the end product "natural gas"
there really is nothing natural about hydraulic fracturing.
Fracking uses high pressure, water, sand and a myriad of chemicals to fracture the rock up to 1,000 feet away from the the well, according to a study titled "Malignant human cell transformation of Marcellus Shale gas drilling flow back water." Fracking is unleashed between 6,000 and 10,000 feet deep in the well, according to the study, and about 5.5 million gallons of water are used for each fracking well. The pressure causes fractures to form and forces water and chemicals back up to the surface. Between 30 and 70 percent of the water returns to the surface as flowback. This flowback water contains chemicals from the fracturing process and an unknown quantity of heavy metals and radioactive compounds that are destabilized underground during the fracturing process. This can cause heavy metals to contaminate rural wells, farmland and food.
So could fracking be causing cancer? A new study says, yes, and it could be happening much faster than previously predicted.
Fracking wastewater causes tumor growthThe study, which was published in Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, breaks new ground, confirming the carcinogenicity of fracking waste water.
Scientists from both China and the US worked together to discover the effect that fracking wastewater has on human bronchial epithelial cells. They also introduced the wastewater to mice to watch for tumor growth. After injecting the wastewater in mice, five out of six developed tumors ranging in size from 0.2 cm to 0.6 cm. The tumors formed much faster than predicted, as early as three months after initial injection. The control mice formed no tumors after six months. The study concluded that "flow back water is capable of neoplastic transformation in vitro," according to WakeUp-World.com.
When the researchers looked at human bronchial epithelial cells, they witnessed severe changes. In the tests, the flowback wastewater induced malignant changes that were consistent with the cancerous phenotype. The scientists were taken aback at how quickly this wastewater was causing conditions for tumors to take hold.
This is the same toxic wastewater that is discharged to nearby bodies of water after a fracking operation. This is the same toxic wastewater that is often injected back underground into an onsite or offsite disposal well. Sometimes the wastewater is transported to industrial treatment facilities. Sometimes it is not. The two elements that were most concerning to the scientists are barium and strontium. When these elements enter the body, they mimic calcium and compete with calcium utilization.
While fracking stands as an economic boon, is it worth the cost to human and environmental health in both the short and long term?
Imagine the consequences for one state alone: a state like Pennsylvania has over 7,700 active fracking wells. According to these statistics, drillers are currently pumping 42 billion gallons of water into the depths, mixing it with chemicals as they proceed. Right now, up to 6 billion gallons of fracking wastewater (loaded with heavy metals and radioactive particles) are returning to the surface of Pennsylvania land. The carcinogenicity is spreading fast, permeating the earth.
As reported by WakeUp-World.com, the study authors concluded:
The BEAS-2B cells exposed to flow back water up to six weeks appeared to be transformed and exhibiting altered morphology as compared to parental cells. The present work also provided Ba and Sr as hydraulic fracturing-related target pollutants in addition to the more classically- studied fracking contaminants (i.e., radioisotopes and methane) for further investigation. Research to determine whether fracking-associated pollutants can migrate to private or public drinking wells, to identify early warning indicators of exposure and effect, and to identify suitable remediation approaches are urgently needed. Descriptive and analytical epidemiological studies along with animal model studies will help to better understand the health impact associated with unconventional shale gas production.