Cancer-Causing Chemicals Used in 34% of Reported Fracking Operations

8203569454_6d56bf70ed_kRecognized carcinogens are used in 1 in 3 hydraulic fracturing operations across the nation – according to industry self-reporting. Independent analysis of the SkyTruth Fracking Chemical Database by IT professional David Darling found that 9,310 individual fracking operations conducted between January 2011 and September 2012 disclosed the use of at least one known carcinogen. While not all hydraulic fracturing operations or all chemicals used in the process are disclosed by the drilling industry, thanks to the lack of a uniform national disclosure law and exacerbated by the liberal use of “trade secret” exemptions, known cancer-causing substances such as naphthalene, benzyl chloride, and formaldehyde were used in 34% of all fracks reported by industry to FracFocus.org.

Since creating a Fracking Chemical Database, which we released to the public back in November, SkyTruth has worked to quantify some of the issues related to fracking, but our main objective in building and publishing the database was to enable research on the subject by anyone interested. This approach has been fruitful in several ways, such as our work with David Darling, an IT professional specializing in database and software programming, who enjoys working  with complicated datasets for his own professional development.

Darling has built powerful structured query language (SQL) tools to analyze our database and join it to others, which he writes about in very technical detail on his website. For those of us not familiar with database management and SQL language, we provide a layman’s guide to his findings here.

Most recently, we asked him to compare the data from  Goodguide.com‘s chemical profile Scorecard, originally a project of the Environmental Defense Fund to profile the respective hazards of over 11,200 industrial chemicals. For recognized carcinogens, Scorecard provides a database compiled from California’s Proposition 65 (P-65), source of the familiar phrase “known to the State of California to cause cancer.” Under P-65, California manages a list of carcinogenic substances identified by health authorities such as the International Agency for Reaserch on Cancer and the Environmental Protection Agency’s  (EPA) Toxic Release Inventory (TRI).

Searching 27,000+ reports from the fracking database, Darling found 11,586 separate instances of recognized carcinogens used in hydraulic fracturing operations during the 20 months the database covers. However, in a long list of substances like Nitrilotriacetic Acid – Trisodium Salt Monohydrate (used 259 times) or ethylbenzene (used 134 times), three known carcinogens were used far more than all the rest:

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