Study: Dangerous Chemical Levels Found Near Fracking Sites

A study published on Thursday concluded that air tests conducted near natural gas wells in five states showed dangerous levels of carcinogenic chemicals, including benzene and formaldehyde. US News reports that “Eight poisonous chemicals were found near wells and fracking sites in Arkansas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wyoming at levels that far exceeded recommended federal limits.” The study was led by Dr. David Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany-State University of New York.

Times Union reports on the methodology of the study:

“We explored air quality at a previously neglected scale: near a range of unconventional oil and gas development and production sites that are the focus of community concern,” Carpenter said. He was lead author on a study that relied on 35 air samples taken from 11 sites at homes and farms near fracking sites in the five states. Sixteen of the samples found unsafe levels of two carcinogenic chemicals — benzene and formaldehyde, as well as hydrogen sulfide.

In addition, 41 stations were set up near well sites to test for formaldehyde, and 14 of the 41 tests exceeded safety standards of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

The samples were collected by trained, local grass-roots citizens groups during times of heavy industrial activity or when experiencing headaches, nausea or dizziness. Seven samples were taken in Susquehanna and Washington counties in Pennsylvania, in the heart of the state’s fracking region. The area contains hundreds of gas wells, and compressor stations that pressurize gas so it can travel through pipelines. Six of the samples were taken near compressor stations and all contained formaldehyde levels with increased lifetime cancer risks, according to the study.