Health Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing on People and Animals

EPA meeting, Nov. 8, 2011

Michelle Bamberger and Robert Oswald

We are investigating the health of animals and their owners living on or adjacent to properties where hydraulic fracturing for extraction of hydrocarbons is or has taken place.

We would like to note that the information we have gathered thus far has been hard won: when contamination incidents occur, it is difficult to document what happened due to non-disclosure clauses. We feel strongly that such clauses should be illegal because they prevent information on contamination episodes and health effects from being documented and studied.

Our investigation is ongoing. Thus far we have observed that exposures are approximately as likely to be caused by surface incidents as by underground incidents. The species we have documented are cows, horses, goats, lamas, chickens, dogs, cats, fish, birds and humans. Morbidity and mortality is highly dependent upon the specific chemicals, amounts absorbed and routes of exposure. We have documented illness associated with drilling activities in all major body systems in both people and animals.

It is important to understand that exposed food animals are currently entering our food supply. We report only one case where a farm has been quarantined. In all cases, cattle known to be exposed to contaminated water and/or air are being sent to slaughter without testing of the animals or the products and a goat dairy in an area testing positive for air contamination is still producing dairy products for human consumption without testing of the animals or the products. We are very concerned that chemicals associated with the process of hydraulic fracturing could appear in milk and meat products made from these animals.

Our recommendations are as follows:

Prohibit the use of nondisclosure agreements. Compensation in the form of money and/or water supplies in exchange for a nondisclosure statement muzzles individuals and prevents information on contamination episodes and health effects from being documented and studied

Complete public disclosure of all chemicals used in all aspects of the drilling process.

Complete testing of air and water before, during and after drilling by independent 3rd party at the expense of the drilling company. COMPLETE means testing for all chemicals used by the driller in the fracturing fluid in addition to the heavy metals and radioactive compounds normally found in a particular shale.

Complete toxicology screen of any animal or human with pathology suspected to be associated with drilling by an independent 3rd party at the expense of the drilling company.

Fracturing fluid chemicals & chemicals released from the shale that are known or possible human carcinogens, regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act, or listed as hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act must have designated EPA Maximum 

Contaminant Levels. Many of the chemicals to which both people and animals are exposed as a result of drilling and fracking are NOT listed as primary contaminants, and thus have no enforceable EPA maximum contaminant level. On the recently released House report, Chemicals Used In Hydraulic Fracturing, less than 1/3 of the chemicals listed as Toxic Chemicals have EPA MCLs.

All animals suspected of being exposed to contaminated water and/or air must be tested before going to slaughter, and the dairy and meat products from such animals must be tested before entering the food supply.

Many of these chemicals are toxins, poisonous at very low concentrations; many are also carcinogens, mutagens, teratogens and endocrine disruptors. To allow exposure of people and animals to these chemicals through air and water contamination is a health experiment on a grand scale. If this process is allowed to proceed, our country will be paying dearly in health care costs for many years to come, due not only to acute medical problems but to chronic long-term health effects that will be difficult if not impossible to prove.