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The Real Cost of Fracking

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The Real Cost of Fracking

How America’s Shale-Gas Boom Is Threatening Our Families, Pets, and Food

Beacon Press,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Fracking generates natural gas, but poses serious risks to humans, animals and the environment.

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Applicable


This well-researched report details the environmental and human cost of hydraulic fracturing with firsthand stories of people, animals and places that have experienced shocking harm from fracking and its chemicals. Michelle Bamberger, a veterinarian, and scientist Robert Oswald worked hard to uncover these tales, which are usually shrouded in silence. When the fracking industry pays people for ruined health or damaged homes, land or animals, they demand nondisclosure agreements. Bamberger and Oswald present original data they’ve collected on chemicals used in fracking and their environmental and health implications. The authors discuss how hard it is to pin some of these problems on fracking and they also cover some of fracking’s acknowledged hazards. For instance, Oklahoma’s government has announced that fracking is causing earthquakes. Much of the specific scientific information in this eye-opening report is not easily available. getAbstract recommends this warning to energy investors, consumers, environmentalists, landowners, reporters, officials and policy makers.


Money Talking

Opponents of hydraulic fracturing – the process of crushing underground rock formations with high-pressure mixtures of “water, sand and chemicals” to release shale gas and oil – assert that it uses dangerous chemicals. Yet, the fracking industry bars the public, including scientists and doctors, from access to comprehensive data about which chemicals the industry uses and their effects on the environment, humans, animals and plants.

The 2005 Energy Policy Act allows the fracking industry to take no responsibility for the chemicals – including formaldehyde, radon and benzene – that its wellheads release into the air and water. Federal and state officials show little interest in fracking’s effects on public health. Yet fracking wells are surprisingly prevalent. Pennsylvania has 6,000-plus working gas wells and 3,300-plus state-documented issues of noncompliance.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Pennsylvania environmental officials do not quantify the levels of chemicals in the air and water at fracking sites. The EPA did not investigate contaminated drinking water instances in other states, including Wyoming and Texas. One issue is...

About the Authors

Veterinarian Michelle Bamberger and Fulbright and Guggenheim fellow Robert Oswald serve on the advisory board of Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy. Bamberger has written two books on pet first aid. Oswald teaches molecular medicine at Cornell University.

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