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What is Fracking?

          Fracking is the commonly used term to describe hydraulic fracturing. “Fracking is a means of natural gas extraction employed in deep natural gas well drilling. Once a well is drilled, millions of gallons of water, sand and proprietary chemicals are injected, under high pressure, into a well. The pressure fractures the shale and props open fissures that enable natural gas to flow more freely out of the well.” ( This Fracking FAQ has more information. 

          Nina Katkins, an Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE) member, developed this excellent poster presentation on Marcellus Shale and fracking. Download: Marcellus Shale 

          Some evidence shows that fracking could be worse for the environment than coal due to the toxic fluid and gas leaks that occur throughout the process. Toxic fluids released during fracking, including benzene and toluene, can enter groundwater, streams, and water supplies.

Health Impacts of Fracking

Fracking produces toxic air pollution and contaminates drinking water. Fracking can dangerously affect the health of those living in communities surrounding a fracking site. The chemicals released can cause a range of health effects:

  • Cancer
  • Childhood leukemia
  • Severe headaches
  • Cardiac problems
  • Birth defects
  • Nervous system impacts (seizures, loss of consciousness)
  • Blood disorders

According to the NRDC, nearly 1 in 4 Americans live within a mile of an oil or gas well. NRDC- 5 major health threats from fracking-related air pollution. The Halliburton Loophole protects companies from having to disclose the chemicals they inject underground that can end up in groundwater. This article gives insight into the little regulations there are on fracking.


More information

The Endocrine Disruptor Exchange has an excellent resource that goes into detail about how the drills are constructed, the process, and environmental and health concerns. Read Chemicals in Natural Gas Operations. Watch this on fracking video narrated by Theo Colburn.