Thursday, October 30, 2014

Toxic chemical rates exceed federal guidelines at fracking sites in five states, study finds

Rates of eight toxic chemicals in fracking sites in Arkansas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wyoming far exceed federal guidelines, says a study published on Thursday in the journal Environmental Health. Benzene, formaldehyde and hydrogen sulfide were the most common compounds found to exceed health-based risk levels.

For the study "trained volunteers living near the wells conducted air measurements, taking 35 'grab air' samples during heavy industrial activity or when they felt symptoms such as dizziness, nausea or headaches," Alan Neuhauser reports for U.S. News and World Report. "Another 41 'passive' tests—meaning samples were taken during a designated period, not merely when levels spiked—were conducted to monitor for formaldehyde. The tests were then sent to accredited labs." (Concentrations of volatile compounds exceeding health-based risk levels in samples collected in Arkansas. Dashed lines represent EPA IRIS 1/10,000 cancer risk for formaldehyde and 1,3 butadiene.)

"Not every sample exceeded the recommended limits," Neuhauser writes. "But in those that did—slightly less than half the samples taken—benzene levels were 35 to 770,000 times greater than normal concentrations, or up to 33 times the exposure a driver might get while fueling his or her car. Similarly, hydrogen sulfide levels above federal standards were 90 to 60,000 times higher than normal—enough to cause eye and respiratory irritation, fatigue, irritability, poor memory and dizziness after just one hour of exposure."

Author Dr. David Carpenter, of the University of Albany, told Neuhauser, "This is a significant public health risk. I was amazed. Five orders of magnitude over federal limits for benzene at one site – that’s just incredible. You could practically just light a match and have an explosion with that concentration. It’s an indication of how leaky these systems are." (Read more)

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