What health considerations are there?

What health considerations are there?

Table 4: Fracturing fluid additives and main compounds 1

Additive Type

Main Compound(s)

Purpose

acid

hydrochloric or muriatic acid

Helps dissolve minerals and initiate cracks in the rock

Antibacterial agent

Glutaraldehyde

Eliminates bacteria in the water that produce corrosive byproducts

Breaker

Ammonium persulfate

Allows a delayed breakdown of the fracturing gel

Clay stabilizer

Potassium chloride

Brine carrier fluid

Corrosion Inhibitor

N,n-dimethyl formamide

Prevents the corrosion of pipes

Crosslinker

Borate salts

Maintains fluid viscosity

Defoamer

Polyglycol

Lowers surface tension and allows gas to escape

Foamer

Acetic acid (with NH4 and NaNO2)

Reduces fluid volume and improves proppant carrying capacity

Friction Reducer

Petroleum distillate

Minimizes friction in pipes

Gel guar gum

Hyroxyethyl 

Helps suspend the sand in water

Iron Control

Citric Acid

Prevents precipitation of metal oxides

Oxygen Scavenger

Ammonium bisulfate

Maintains integrity of steel casing of wellbore; protects pipes from corrosion by removing oxygen from fluid

pH Adjusting Agent

Sodium or potassium carbonate

Adjusts and controls pH of fluid

Proppant

Silica, sometimes ceramic particles

Holds open (props) fractures to allow fluids (oil and/or natural gas) to escape from shale

Scale Inhibitor

Ethylene glycol

Reduces scale deposits in pipe

Solvents

Stoddard solvent, various aromatic hydrocarbons

Improve fluid wettability or ability to maintain contact between the fluid and the pipes

Surfactant

Isopropanol

Increases the viscosity of the fracture fluids and prevents emulsions

Notes:

  1. Adgate, Goldstein, and McKenzie, “Potential Public Health Hazards,” 8311.

What health considerations are there?

What health considerations are there?

Table 3: Examples of Fracturing Fluid Additives and Main Compounds 1

Note: It is important to take level of exposure into account when considering health effects of pollutants.

Pollutant

What is it?

Health Effect

Methane

A colorless, odorless, tasteless, and flammable gas that is the primary component of natural gas.

Toxicological data suggests that pure methane is nontoxic. 2 High concentrations can cause oxygen-deficient air spaces, fire hazards, or explosions. 3 Water contaminated with methane poses risk of explosion if ignited. 4 

Hydrogen Sulfide

Chemical air hazard produced during petroleum/natural gas drilling and refining. 5 It is a colorless, flammable, and extremely hazardous gas with a strong odor of rotten eggs at low concentrations. Regulations require onsite monitoring for hydrogen sulfide. 

Lower levels and long-term exposure can cause eye irritation, headache, and fatigue. 6 Inhalation of very high concentrations can result in respiratory distress, respiratory arrest, or death. 7

Benzene

A volatile organic compound (VOC) found in crude petroleum, natural gas, and diesel exhaust. May be released during well unloadings or other maintenance. 8 It is a colorless to light yellow liquid with an aromatic odor.

Low levels of exposure can result in irritation to skin, eyes, and respiratory systems, dizziness, tremors, and fatigue, among other symptoms; it has also been linked to reproductive effects. 9 Exposure to very high concentrations has been linked to leukemia and can result in death. 10

Xylene

A VOC found in natural gas and hydrocarbons issuing from the well during the fracturing process. It is a colorless liquid with a sweet-smelling odor and is flammable.

Low levels of exposure are not associated with health risks. 11 However, short-term exposure at high levels can cause dizziness, confusion, irritation of skin, eyes, and throat, difficulty breathing, and possible changes in the liver or kidneys. Very high levels can result in unconsciousness or death. 12

Toluene

A VOC found naturally in hydrocarbon deposits, and might be present in chemicals used during the drilling and fracking process. 13 It is a colorless liquid with distinct sweet odor.

Symptoms of low to moderate levels of toluene exposure include fatigue, confusion, memory loss, nausea, loss of appetite, and hearing and vision loss. 14, 15 Inhalation of high levels can cause light-headedness, dizziness, fatigue, unconsciousness, and death; it has also been linked to birth defects and kidney damage. 16

Hexane

A VOC that is highly flammable; vapors can be explosive. 17 It is a colorless liquid with a gasoline-like odor.

Inhalation is most common route of exposure, but it can be found in contaminated private wells. 18 Inhalation of low levels is not associated with health effects. 19 High levels can result in nausea, eye and nose irritation, nerve damage, and paralysis. 20

Particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10)

PM2.5 and PM10 are microscopic particles that can be found in diesel or smoke, near roads, or in dusty areas.

Due to their small size, these particles can be inhaled deeply into the lungs and some can enter the bloodstream, affecting the lungs and heart. 21 Individuals with heart or lung diseases, older adults, and children are particularly at risk. Short-term exposure can worsen existing lung or heart conditions. 22 Long-term exposure is linked to chronic bronchitis and premature death in some cases. 23

Ground-level ozone (smog)

Under certain conditions, ozone can be formed when VOCs react with nitrogen oxide, which is found where combustion occurs, such as in diesel engines.

Short-term exposure can cause cough, reduced lung capacity, throat irritation, and other temporary respiratory effects. 24 Evidence about the effects of long-term exposure is inconclusive, although some studies link daily exposure to elevated levels of ozone with asthma, cardiovascular effects, increased hospital admissions, and increased daily mortality. 25 Children, older adults, and people with lung disease are at greatest risk. 26

 

Notes:

  1. Modeled on Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, “Facts on Fracking: What Healthcare Providers Need to Know,accessed November 21, 2014 
  2. Seth Shonkoff, Jake Hays, and Madelon L. Finkel,  “Environmental Public Health Dimensions of Shale and Tight Gas DevelopmentEnvironmental Health Perspectives 122, Issue 8 (August 2014).
  3. Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of Oil and Gas, Division of Reclamation, and Indiana State Department of Health, “Methane Gas & Your Water Well: A Fact Sheet for Indiana Water Well Owners” (no date).
  4. New York State Department of Health, “A Public Health Review of High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing for Shale Gas Development” (December 2014).
  5. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), “OSHA Fact Sheet: Hydrogen Sulfide” (2005).
  6. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), Division of Toxicology and Human Health Sciences, “Hydrogen Sulfide- ToxFAQs” CAS # 7783-06-4 (October 2014).
  7. ATSDR, “Hydrogen Sulfide.”
  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Facts about Benzene” (updated February 2013).
  9. CDC, “NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards” (updated February 13, 2015).
  10. CDC. “NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards.”
  11. ATSDR, “Xylene: Division of Toxicology and Environmental Medicine ToxFAQs” (August, 2007).
  12. ATSDR, “Xylene.”
  13. Valerie J. Brown, “Industry Issues: Putting Heat on Gas,” National Center for Biotechnology Information (February 2007).
  14. ATSDR, “Toluene: Division of Toxicology and Environmental Medicine ToxFAQs,” CAS # 108-88-3 (February 2001).
  15. Valerie J. Brown, “Industry Issues.”
  16. ATSDR, “Toulene.”
  17. ATSDR, “n-Hexane,” CAS ID # 110-54-3 (updated March 3, 2011).
  18. ATSDR, “Toxicological Profile for n-Hexane” (July 1999).
  19. ATSDR, “Toxicological Profile for n-Hexane.”
  20. ATSDR, “Toxicological Profile for n-Hexane.”
  21. U.S. EPA Office of Air and Radiation, “Particle Pollution and Your Health” (September 2003).
  22. U.S. EPA Office of Air and Radiation, “Particle Pollution and Your Health.”
  23. U.S. EPA Office of Air and Radiation, “Particle Pollution and Your Health.”
  24. U.S. EPA, “Health Effects of Ozone in the General Population” (updated January 30, 2015).
  25. U.S. EPA, “Health Effects of Ozone in the General Population.”
  26. U.S. EPA, “Ground-level Ozone:  Health Effects” last updated October 1, 2015.

What resources can provide further information?

What resources can provide further information?

Table 2. State Oil and Gas Regulatory Agencies

Note: States that are not listed do not have a regulatory agency specific to oil and gas. In some states, other agencies, such as geological survey agencies, could be useful sources of scientific information related to shale development.

 

State Oil and Gas Regulatory Agencies Contact Information
Alabama State Oil and Gas Board Website
Phone: 205-349-2852
Alaska Alaska Oil & Gas Conservation Commission Website
Phone: 907-279-1433
  Department of Natural Resources, Division of Oil and Gas

Website
Phone: 907-269-8800 

Arizona Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Website
Phone: 520-770-3500
Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission Website
Phone: 479-646-6611
California Department of Conservation, Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources Website
Phone: 916-445-9686
Colorado Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Website
Phone: 303-894-2100
Florida Department of Environmental Protection Website
Phone: 850-245-8336
Georgia Department of Natural Resource, Environmental Protection Division Website
Phone: 888-373-5947
Idaho Idaho Department of Lands Website
Phone: 208-334-0200
Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Oil and Gas Resource Management Website
Phone: 217-782-7756
Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of Oil and Gas Website
Phone: 317-232-4055
Kansas Kansas Corporation Commission, Conservation Division Website
Phone: 785-271-3100
Kentucky Department of Natural Resources, Division of Oil and Gas Website
Phone: 502-573-0147
Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, Office of Conservation Website
Phone: 225-342-5540
Maryland Maryland Department of the Environment Website
Phone: 410-537-3000
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Office of Oil, Gas and Minerals Website
Phone: 517-284-6823
Mississippi Mississippi Oil and Gas Board

Website
Phone: 601-576-4900

Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Geological Survey Website
Phone: 573-368-2143
Montana Board of Oil and Gas Website
Phone: 406-656-0040
Nebraska Nebraska Oil & Gas Conservation Commission Website
Phone: 308-254-6919
Nevada Division of Minerals Website
Phone: 775-684-7040
New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, Oil Conservation Division Website
Phone: 505-476-3458
New York Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Mineral Resources Website
Phone: 518-402-8056
North Carolina Division of Energy, Mineral and Land Resources Website
Phone: 919-707-9234
North Dakota Industrial Commission, Department of Mineral Resources, Oil and Gas Division Website
Phone: 701-328-8020
Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Oil and Gas Website
Phone: 614-265-6565
Oklahoma Oklahoma Corporation Commission, Oil and Gas Division Website
Phone: 405-521-2240
Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries Website
Phone: 541-967-2039
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Bureau of Oil and Gas Management Website
Phone: 717-783-2300
South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control Website
Phone: 803-898-3432
South Dakota Department of Natural Resources, Geological Survey Website
Phone: 605-677-5227
Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Website
Phone: 615-687-7120
Texas Railroad Commission of Texas Website
Phone: 512-463-6838
Utah Department of Natural Resources, Division of Oil, Gas and Mining Website
Phone: 801-538-5340
Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, Division of Gas and Oil Website
Phone: 804-692-3200
Washington Department of Natural Resources, Division of Energy, Mining and Minerals Website
Phone: 360-902-1450
West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, Office of Oil and Gas Website
Phone: 304-926-0450
Wyoming Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Website
Phone: 307-234-7147