The term fracking or hydraulic fracking refers to the practice of drilling into earth to release the natural gas inside. A mixture of water, sand and chemicals is injected into rocks at high pressures to create fractures that allow the natural gas to flow out of wells. The fracking industry has increased oil production and reduced gas prices in the US. The companies involved in the practice claim that it has opened up numerous job opportunities that revolve around the industry, it gave the US and Canada gas security for about 100 years, and it has also allowed for the possibility to generate electricity while producing half of the CO2 emissions produced by coal.
Although the use of fracking in the US has created a positive economic shift in the industry, the practice has also sparked a large number of controversies. Environmentalists are concerned about the water wasted and polluted by potential carcinogenic chemicals during the fracking process. Moreover, there are growing concerns of the possible links between fracking sites and earthquakes. Both Oklahoma and Blackpool in Lancashire have had earthquakes following some fracking activities, and both locations had confirmed the probable correlation to the fracking drilling nearby.
Additionally, In 2011 water taps in Pennsylvania began catching fire due to the leaking of methane into the water. These amongst many other reasons have caused a large controversy around the practice of fracking. Environmentalist believe that the investment in this industry must be stopped and redirected towards renewable energy sources.
In addition to environmental concerns, fracking sites themselves have been linked to many health issues in the surrounding areas. The Natural Resources Defense Council has stated that fracking can cause respiratory illnesses and possibly cancer. A recent study has confirmed that infants born at close proximity to fracking sites can suffer from growth problems.
How Fracking Can Impact The Growth of an Infant
A new study published in the journal Science Advances revealed that babies born to mothers living close to fracking sites in Pennsylvania had a higher risk towards being born with adverse health problems. Michael Greenstone, a co-author of the study and the director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, said in a press release, “As local and state policymakers decide whether to allow hydraulic fracturing in their communities, it is crucial that they carefully examine the costs and benefits… This study provides the strongest large-scale evidence of a link between the pollution that stems from hydraulic fracturing activities and…the health of babies.”
More than 1.1 million cases from different increasing distances to the fracking sites were studied and analyzed between 2004 and 2013. The results revealed that the infants of women living within three kilometers from a fracking site were more susceptible to health problems. Moreover, the infants of mothers living within one kilometer of a fracking site had a 25 percent likeliness of being born weighing less than 5.5 pounds. The number of African American women and their proximity to a fracking site was also factored into the research. The results revealed that black mothers were more likely to live close to a fracking site which increases the risk of health issues impacting their children. The authors mentioned that “this difference arises because over time, more wells were drilled near urban areas such as Pittsburgh, where higher numbers of African Americans live,”
Methane Leaking in British Columbia
A report revealing that almost fifty fracking gas sites near northeast BC were leaking methane was released after being withheld from the public for four years. The report also named 900 other fracking locations that could potentially be leaking methane as well. Ben Parfitt, a resource policy analyst with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, says “It is deeply troubling that BC’s energy industry regulator kept this report secret. Why did it not tell the public? Why, as the OGC now alleges, did it also not share the report with Cabinet ministers who have responsibility for the energy industry? We need answers and a full public inquiry is the best way to get them.”
This was the second time the OGC was under serious questioning in the same year. The OGC were allowing over a dozen fracking wells to be built and operated without engineering safety specifications or water licences. The David Suzuki Foundation, the CCPA and many more organizations were coming together to call for an in-depth investigation into the fracking industry and its impact on the environment surrounding it.
Larry Barzelai, head of the BC chapter of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, said “a 2012 study demonstrated increased incidences of lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in people living in northeastern BC, and a 2017 study showed high levels of benzene in pregnant women living in that region. This increases the risk of leukemia in their children. How much longer will we continue to compromise the health of our citizens by allowing the fracking industry to proliferate?”