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Scientists probe fracking chemicals

  • Written by  Tom Hart
  • Published in Climate
Pumpjacks extract oil from an oilfield in Kern County, California, USA Pumpjacks extract oil from an oilfield in Kern County, California, USA Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock
01 Oct
2014
‘The industrial side was saying, “We’re just using food additives, basically making ice cream here.” On the other side, there’s talk about the injection of thousands of toxic chemicals’

So said William Stringfellow, leader of a research team at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory examining the chemicals used in fracking for oil and gas.

Stringfellow’s team found that fracking fluids contain many non-toxic, food-grade materials, but being edible or biodegradable doesn’t make a substance easily disposable. Most fracking chemicals require treatment before release into the environment, according to the research and eight compounds were identified as being toxic to mammals.

‘There are a number of chemicals, like corrosion inhibitors and biocides in particular, that are being used in reasonably high concentrations that potentially could have adverse effects,’ said Stringfellow.

His team found that most chemicals involved in fracking require treatment before release, although the numbers were not in the thousands as some critics suggest.

There are still a great many unknowns about the chemicals involved, with little information on one-third of the approximately 190 compounds identified as ingredients in various fracking formulas, according to the research. ‘It should be a priority to try to close that data gap,’ said Stringfellow.

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