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The Health Effects of Fracking

Photo of natural gas frac wells

By Steve Beleu, Director, U.S. Government Information Division, Oklahoma Department of Libraries

The immense growth in our nation of enhanced natural gas and oil recovery via the process popularly known as “fracking,” and more precisely known as “Hydraulic Fracturing,” has created an economic boom. “Shale oil” and “shale gas” is trapped within shale formations; injecting combinations of water, sand, and chemicals at high pressure causes the shale to crack which then releases the gas or oil. But mismanaged fracking can also release hazardous chemicals into drinking water and air, and also cause small earthquakes. Here are some links to information about fracking in general and its potential adverse health effects.

Basic information about hydraulic fracturing for natural gas and oil.
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Website updated on May 9, 2012.

Basic information about shale gas. It includes a chart that shows the current and projected future growth of shale gas production from about 2005 through 2040. EIA estimates that there will be a 44% increase in fracking.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Agency. Website updated on December 5, 2012.

Map of “Lower 48” State Shale “plays” (a “play” is the name for a formation that contains trapped natural gas).
Source: U.S. Energy Information Agency. May 9, 2011.

Report about fracking and the risks to public health of fracking. Recommended for its technical explanations of fracking. September 5, 2012.
Source: U.S. General Accountability Office.

Report about the regulations of federal government and six states about the potentially hazardous effects of fracking.
Source: U.S. General Accountability Office. September 5, 2012.

Congressional report from the U.S. House of Representatives about the chemicals in fracking and their potential adverse health effects.
Source: U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce. April 2011.

Charts and graphs about fracking.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Agency. June 27, 2012.

The EPA project to study the effects on fracking on drinking water; widely reported by national and state media. Their report is due to Congress in 2014, but this is a website about it. Website updated on December 7, 2012/

EPA’s web page about the basics of fracking. Website updated on October 2, 2012

Selected free, full-text articles about fracking from the National Institute of Health’s PubMed Central (PMC) database. Using the search term “hydraulic fracturing” currently retrieves 89 articles; these are three of them. Basic web address of PubMed Central:

—“Methane Contamination of Drinking Water Accompanying Gas-Well Drilling and Hydraulic Fracturing”. Published in May 2011.

—“The Future of Fracking: New Rules Target Air Emissions for Cleaner Natural Gas Production”. Published in July 2012.

—“Blind Rush? Shale Gas Boom Proceeds Amid Human Health Questions”.  Published in August 2011.

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