Health Ramifications of Fracking from a Nurse’s View by New Yorkers Against Fracking, November 8, 2012
The potential health risks as a result of hydrofracking are terrifying from a medical standpoint. Fracking puts people at risk for toxic chemical exposure in both air and water, and it’s an insidious danger because of the drilling method used in fracking. When chemical laced water is blasted horizontally in the shale layer at enormous pressure, how can the end point be controlled? The answer is that it can’t. So all that chemical based water is going to go where it’s easiest to break through. That increases the likelihood that chemicals will end up in water sources or the air, resulting in toxic exposure.
As nurses, what should we look for when someone presents with symptoms of chemical exposure? One of the major chemicals that can leak from drilling and disposal of waste is benzene. According to the CDC, benzene is “a chemical that is a colorless or light yellow liquid at room temperature. It has a sweet odor and is highly flammable. Benzene evaporates into the air very quickly. Its vapor is heavier than air and may sink into low-lying areas. Benzene dissolves only slightly in water and will float on top of water.”
Immediate symptoms of benzene exposure include drowsiness, dizziness, rapid or irregular heartbeat, headaches, tremors, and confusion. High level exposure includes unconsciousness and at very high levels, death. Symptoms of long term exposure present as anemia or excessive bleeding due to benzene’s effects on bone marros and production of red blood cells. Is it possible, as fracking continues across the country, that there will be a distinctive set of symptoms that people will suffer?
Will we see the development of a “fracking syndrome”? As healthcare professionals, we need to be educated about the health ramifications of fracking and what those symptoms will look like. Also as healthcare professionals, we know that the best defense against disease is prevention. That’s why nurses need to come together to stop fracking before it spreads it’s devastating destruction. [Emphasis added]