Reduce Fracking Health Hazards

Studies have found that the fracking boom has resulted in dangerous levels of toxic air pollution, and pollution from fracking sites is suspected of contaminating the drinking water in Colorado, Pennsylvania, and several other states.

A fracking rig in Northern Colorado Robert Ingelhart /Getty

NRDC is fighting to protect people from the potential health risks of unchecked fracking. We call on state and federal agencies to set strong standards to limit harmful pollution and conduct more comprehensive studies into the health impacts of this oil and gas production technique. We also help communities make sense of existing research and educate policy makers about the threats to public health.

Fracking sites release a toxic stew of air pollution that includes chemicals that can cause severe headaches, asthma symptoms, childhood leukemia, cardiac problems, and birth defects. In addition, many of the 1,000-plus chemicals used in fracking are harmful to human health—some are known to cause cancer.

Despite these potential risks, communities are often left in the dark about what energy companies are pumping into their backyards and neighborhoods. There is no federal requirement for drillers to report the chemicals they use, state provisions are often inadequate and poorly enforced, and there is very limited testing data for air and water quality. As a result, doctors and nurses often can’t find out what a patient might have been exposed to in the event of an accident or spill, or when he or she has unexplained symptoms. We are pushing not only for full disclosure of the chemicals used in fracking but also better testing to ensure the air and water are safe. This information should be open to the public and available to researchers studying fracking's impacts on communities.

NRDC also works to close legal loopholes that oil and gas companies have exploited to avoid cleaning up after themselves. We are calling for government agencies to set strong standards to limit pollution, hold toxic fracking waste to the same standards as other types of hazardous waste, and to fund robust inspection and enforcement programs.

As we fight to secure these safeguards, we help communities protect themselves when their state and federal governments fail to stop reckless fracking. Our Community Fracking Defense Project helps towns and counties determine whether or how fracking should proceed within their borders—and how they can shield themselves from potential health threats.

Resource Center