Many people in New York State have heard about high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing, the unconventional natural gas drilling method better known as fracking. But, people may only know some of its dangers.
Fracking, including infrastructure such as pipelines and compressor stations, carries many risks: polluting air, poisoning land, and contaminating water and food. Evidence of risks and harms is growing so rapidly that Concerned Health Professionals of New York (CHPNY) recently published a Compendium featuring hundreds of peer-reviewed studies and other findings.
Fracking releases numerous air pollutants, including methane–a potent greenhouse gas that is the main component of natural gas–benzene and other volatile organic compounds, and ground level ozone. These pollutants can lead to health impacts ranging from rashes, nausea, and nosebleeds; to respiratory and neurological problems; and even cancer. Ground level ozone threatens crops, risking economies of places like Minisink in New York’s Black Dirt Region, and New York’s food sovereignty.
Numerous studies show strong evidence of groundwater contamination. When water needed to drink, wash, cook, bathe, and water crops and livestock is contaminated with fracking chemicals–including many endocrine disruptors and carcinogens–it increases risks of reproductive, metabolic, and neurological disorders. Leaks, spills, blowouts, explosions, and other accidents further exacerbate these dangers.
Fewer people may know that fracking increases our exposure to radon, the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. The Marcellus Shale, the rock formation underneath New York and Pennsylvania that the gas industry wants to frack, has incredibly high levels of radioactivity including radon. Radon could travel with fracked gas in pipelines into homes, increasing the risk of lung cancer, especially among children.
Fracking leads to climate change. Massive amounts of the potent greenhouse gas methane–34 times more potent than carbon dioxide–leak throughout extraction, transportation, and storage of natural gas. Additionally, the entire fracking process is dependent on other fossil fuels for thousands of truck trips per well, and other machine operations. Climate change directly threatens us through dangerous, extreme weather and sea level rise. It affects us through changing temperatures, impacting growing seasons and limiting food crop growth –ultimately threatening our ability to feed ourselves. We must address fracking and climate change now. Get involved. Ask Governor Cuomo to ban fracking. Join the People’s Climate March in Manhattan on September 21.
Jessica Roff is the Downstate Regional Organizer of New Yorkers Against Fracking.