When I lived in rural Pennsylvania, I witnessed the negative effects of the fracking industry: a dingy brown hue to our tap water, loud gas and oil trucks careening down otherwise peaceful country roads. I even was woken early one morning—on one of my family camping outings—by men in orange jumpsuits surveying my in-law’s 88 acres of woods, marking choice drilling areas with fluorescent tape. Months later, my in-laws sold every inch of that property to the fracking industry for a large sum of money that will never be equal to the beauty and magnificence of the wildlife, streams, and plant life that flourished there.
Recently, a study has shown a direct link between the chemicals used in fracking and miscarriages, birth defects, and infertility. As a woman who has suffered three miscarriages myself (one stillborn at 24 weeks), I couldn’t help but wonder if my own exposure to polluted air and water in northeast Pennsylvania could have harmed my reproductive health.
In an EcoWatch article by Anastasia Pantsios, looked at “more than 150 papers that analyzed the health effects of compounds and chemicals widely used in fracking, such as benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, xylene, formaldehyde and heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium and lead. From their research, they identified a range of defects and reproductive disruptions known to be associated with exposure to them” including “infertility, miscarriage, impaired fetal growth, low birth weight, preterm birth and birth defects. It found that rates of these conditions were elevated in heavily fracked areas. It also found many of the same problems in farm animals and pets living in those areas.”
The potentiality (or rather, stark reality) of dangers to fetuses and infants is only a new point in opposition of fracking. Just one frack uses eight million gallons of water, and you can only frack one well 18 times—not a sustainable practice. This means that it is impossible to keep fracking confined to designated areas.
DangersOfFracking.com alleges that “methane gas and toxic chemicals leach out from the system and contaminate nearby groundwater” during the fracking process, and that “methane concentrations are 17x higher in drinking-water wells near fracturing sites than in normal wells.” Consumption of contaminated water has been linked to respiratory and neurological damage.
Futhermore, the toxic waste fluid is left to evaporate, releasing VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) that pollute the air adding to already debilitating environmental problems, such as acid rain and depletion of the ozone layer.
Despite these facts, greedy CEOs of Big Business and the officials elected by them refuse to outlaw this destructive practice. As these people shamelessly line their pockets, families are torn apart by cancer and other illnesses related to exposure to fracking chemicals. Produce and livestock are contaminated and ingested by people all across the country. Residents of rural communities are fearful of their running water, which is supposed to be nourishing, refreshing, and life-giving, and unborn children have much less of a fighting chance than they should.
Fracking has been a controversial issue in my community since I can remember. Before I knew what the term meant, I observed lawns adorned with “Don’t Frack With Our Water” signs and irate neighbors fervently demonstrating how they could light their tap water on fire. When I first heard what my husband’s family was being offered to sell their acreage in the Pocono mountains, I admit that I was not opposed to the idea, pregnant at the time and filled with my own oblivious greed.
Looking back on my attitude towards this environmentally perilous practice and the pain of delivering a stillborn child, I am ashamed to have been attracted to the dollar signs that fracking made me see. If there is one undeniable truth that exists about fracking, it’s that the consequences of what gas and oil drilling produce are full-circle, affect everyone, even those who have not yet taken their first breath. The financial gains attained by fracking are in no way worth the impact that this dangerous process will have on generations to come.
Bianca D. Velasco is a freelance writer, rogue scholar, and East Coast transplant to Olympia. Her passions are philosophy and the dissemination of information in a spirit of intellectual inquiry; she also abhors fascism in all of its insidious disguises.