The Dangers of Fracking for Natural Gas

I’d like to post an email I received from a friend:

Hello All,

I am writing this letter to you because I am truly fearful for our country, my own children and their children. The only way that I can think of combating this fear is to try and let people know what we have been learning about this past month.

In the last few weeks, we have attended a few meetings concerning the process of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas (fracking). The information we obtained gave us some cause for worry, enough to write our state legislators about our concerns. However, last night we decided to watch the documentary recommended to us about fracking. It is called “Gasland.” I am sure many of you have heard about it and maybe a few of you have actually watched it. Until I saw this Oscar-nominated documentary, I didn’t believe that water could burn.

We rented it through Netflix. My Husband actually didn’t want to watch it since he thought it would be too depressing. It was more than that. It scared us enough to wreck our night’s sleep. Seeing this movie was so much more enlightening than reading information in articles and on websites. I urge all of you to get your hands on it and watch it. In our opinion, we are putting the entire country’s’ water supply and consequently our food supply at risk. It has the real possibility of becoming the worst nightmare our country has ever faced.

So far the states that have been most affected are Pennsylvania, Colorado, Texas, Arkansas, Wyoming and Louisiana. Thousands and thousands of these wells have already been drilled. And all of this has occurred in one mere decade. However there are plans in the works to drill wells in at least 34 of the 50 states.

These gas companies are exempt from most of our laws concerning clean water and clean air. The more than 500 hazardous (proprietary) chemicals, many of them toxic organics, are injected deep into the ground. There is a real risk that they will get into the aquifers we use for drinking water and for the irrigation of our crops.

There is not only the toxicity of the chemicals to worry about, but the wastewater that is recaptured from the underground drilling has been found to have radioactive contaminants. These radioactive contaminants are released from the rocks deep underground and are brought up to the surface in the drilling mud and in the natural gas. There is no way to scrub the radioactive gases from the gas. Every time you light your stove, you are introducing radioactive gases into your home.

Due to the exemptions given to the gas industry, these gas companies do not have to act responsibly and they do not. The EPA is powerless. The Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act exempts the gas industry from the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, and other “right to know” laws. The gas industry does not need to clean up toxic discharges from these fracking well sites whether it is to the ground or to nearby streams.

They don’t want to be bothered to clean-up their toxic sludge or any of the other damage they cause to the land, air or local water supplies. When people complain, the gas companies say “prove it” and “go find a lawyer.” People who get sick and sue the gas companies are fought tooth and nail, and the last person standing is often bought-off and silenced with non-disclosure agreements.

If any of you would like to read more about the issues, there are websites with more information. Two I know of are and The Union of Concerned Scientists also has information.

I know many of you don’t particularly like environmentalists; however, I urge to watch this movie for the sake of your children, grandchildren and the many American citizens who have already been harmed by this process. If you watch it and feel there is no cause for concern, then you have only lost about an hour of your time. For those of you who feel the same fear we do, it is time to take action. One easy step we can all take is to write our State and Federal representatives about our concerns. (email your State Representatives and Senators and Governor)

We all love this country both for its great beauty and diversity as well as the ideals we hold dear. Please do not consider this a political issue. It is one that will affect all of us.


In addition to the valid concerns expressed in this letter, it is also worth noting that in Pennsylvania there is an outrageous gag order placed upon physicians who might try to counsel their patients about the deleterious health effects of fracking in their communities. From Physicians News Digest:

The law, known as Act 13 of 2012, an amendment to Title 58 (Oil and Gas) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, requires that companies provide to a state-maintained registry the names of chemicals and gases used in fracking. Physicians and others who work with citizen health issues may request specific information, but the company doesn’t have to provide that information if it claims it is a trade secret or proprietary information, nor does it have to reveal how the chemicals and gases used in fracking interact with natural compounds.

If a company does release information about what is used, health care professionals are bound by a non-disclosure agreement that not only forbids them from warning the community of water and air pollution that may be caused by fracking, but which also forbids them from telling their own patients what the physician believes may have led to their health problems.

A strict interpretation of the law would also forbid general practitioners and family practice physicians who sign the non-disclosure agreement and learn the contents of the “trade secrets” from notifying a specialist about the chemicals or compounds, thus delaying medical treatment.

The clauses are buried on pages 98 and 99 of the 174-page bill, which was initiated and passed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly and signed into law in February by Republican Gov. Tom Corbett.

It is sad and infuriating to me that this kind of law could be passed. I can’t see how it is constitutional, and it certainly seems immoral. But even more distressing is the disregard we have for the environment and our own health.

I would urge you to learn more about this process since chances are it will be coming to a watershed near you.


5 thoughts on “The Dangers of Fracking for Natural Gas

  1. Peggy Polaneczky

    Thank you for helping to bring attention to this issue. I’ve been writing about it for awhile now, have seen Gasland, and even got the film into the hands of NJ head of DEP, though not sure it had the impact there that I’d hoped it would.

    As physicians, I believe we have a special responsibility to make the public aware of the potential risks to their health of fracking chemicals, before it’s too late.

  2. Chrys

    We are trying to fight it here. People just do not get what it means. I believe these companies prey on areas and towns that are depressed economically (which is practically everywhere these days). The locals only see the immediate monetary gain, temporary jobs-perhaps, an ease for the immediate future with all their bills, groceries, utilities, and taxes. They think what little they get will help them.

    Instead they will be left with contamination, ruined properties and illness. While the companies that come in will be long gone, and untouched by what they leave these innocents behind to deal with.

  3. Greg P

    I think there are more unknowns than knowns about this, which to me means we need to care, we need more information, but we don’t need fear. Fear is unhelpful.

    We live in a time of carefully created documentaries, opinion pieces, news networks with bias, good and bad information on the internet, so we must question everything, even a documentary such as this.

  4. laetitia

    hello ,
    i’ve been seeing a video about fracking for gas on a news tv show this evening .
    I heard about the risk and decided to learn more , so I search on the net and found your letter .

    Then , i thought of another problem that could happen : I may be wrong , but , is there any risk of earthquake by splitting up the rock in depth ? Perhaps it’s not dangerous for a state , but for 34 states it could weaken all the ground and the consequences could be crumblings ?

    May be it’s a stupid idea – i hope so – but how could I verify it ?
    thank you for paying attention , respectfully , laetitia.

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