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It is undeniable that the process generates jobs, natural gas, oil and huge profits, for which it is championed by companies and supported by many governments, but environmental, health and safety dangers continue to increase.
This is a summary of the various "side effects" that drilling a hole in the earth's surface could have, into which toxic chemicals are injected at high pressure and then the wastewater is pumped deep.
During the hydraulic fracturing process, a significant amount of methane gas and other toxic chemicals seep from the well and contaminate the vicinity of the groundwater, which is often the source of water for consumption by local communities.
A single well can produce almost four million liters of wastewater, which contains radioactive elements such as radium and various carcinogenic hydrocarbons, such as benzene; Methane concentrations are 17 times higher in the underground beds near the fracture sites than in normal wells. Only between 30 and 50% of the fracturing fluid is recovered; the rest is left in the ground and is not biodegradable.
Almost 90% of the water used in fracking never returns to the surface. Since water is permanently withdrawn from its natural cycle, this is bad news for those affected by drought or shortage.
The reorientation of water supplies for the hydraulic fracturing industry not only makes water prices more expensive, but also reduces its availability for other uses, such as crop irrigation.
Serious health consequences
The residual fluid left by the hydraulic fracturing process is deposited in open pits to evaporate, which releases dangerous volatile organic compounds into the atmosphere, polluting the air, generating acid rain and increasing ozone levels at ground level. .
Exposure to hydrogen sulfide and volatile hydrocarbon particles can lead to health problems such as asthma, headaches, high blood pressure, anemia, heart attacks, and cancer, and can have a detrimental effect on the immune and reproductive systems, as well as in embryonic development.
A killer gas
A recent study by Johns Hopkins University found that homes located in suburban and rural areas near fracking sites generally have a 39% higher radon concentration than those located in urban areas without fracking.
Radon (the second world cause of lung cancer after smoking) is a natural radioactive gas, odorless, tasteless, invisible and soluble, so some dissolved remains can appear in water wells and underground water sources and others disperse through the air.
In addition to water and toxic chemicals, fracking requires the use of fine sand or frac, which has driven the boom in its extraction and milling in many parts of the world.
These tiny silica particles can make breathing difficult and cause respiratory irritation, coughing, airway obstruction, and poor lung function, but chronic or long-term exposure can lead to lung inflammation, bronchitis, emphysema, and a serious condition known as silicosis, a form of pulmonary fibrosis.
The hydraulic fracturing process has been confirmed to cause earthquakes. Specifically, over the past seven years, certain geologically stable regions have experienced fault movement that had not moved in millions of years, due to fracking. Furthermore, it is difficult or impossible to predict where the earthquakes caused by this practice will occur.
It is reliably proven that the increase in said activity coincides with the injection of wastewater into wells designed and approved for this purpose. After years of uncertainties, many governments have ended up agreeing with scientists, France was one of the first.
More "greenhouse effect"?
Natural gas is primarily methane, a greenhouse gas so powerful that it traps 85 times more heat than CO2. Due to methane leaks during the hydraulic fracturing process, fracking can be worse than burning coal.
It is proven that even small leaks in the natural gas production and distribution system can have a great impact at the climatic level, enough to destroy the entire benefit of switching from thermal energy production to coal to gas.
Quid pro quo?
Last but not least, behind fracking there is a lot of money at stake. We are talking about astronomical amounts that are those that end up "convincing" governments to accept that their territories are trampled in this way, even knowing the pernicious consequences that this method can bring.
In exchange for a few real but not always stable jobs, having a source of natural gas “at home” and surreptitious financial support, fracking is being practiced in many parts of the world right now, without any consideration for the health of nearby residents, the terrible climatic consequences and irreparable damage to the environment.