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Fracking a hazard for workers, scientists say

The natural gas extraction method called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is controversial primarily because of its potential impact on the environment.

But on a science blog for The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, four scientists with NIOSH point out another potential hazard from fracking – lung ailments for workers exposed to the process.

Fracking, used in the Marcellus Shale region of Pennsylvania, involves injecting a mixture of water and chemicals deep into the ground. The pressure causes shale rock formations to fracture, releasing natural gas.

Critics have pointed out hazards from the process, ranging from the possibility of triggering earthquakes to the release of toxic chemicals into the water table. The water used in fracking contains chemicals including benzene, which is a known carcinogen linked to leukemia.

The blog entry cites a study designed specifically to identify potential hazards for workers involved with fracking. Researchers concluded that the greatest danger for workers is the inhalation of crystalline silica, in the form of the copious amounts of dust generated at fracking sites.

According to the blog, the dust comes from the “frac sand,” which is a major part of the process.

Inhalation of fine crystalline silica particles can cause silicosis, an incurable and potentially deadly lung disease. Crystalline silica has also been linked with cancer, tuberculosis and other respiratory diseases, the blog says.

Based on 116 collected air samples at 11 different hydraulic fracturing sites in five different states, “NIOSH concluded that an inhalation health hazard existed for workers exposed to crystalline silica at the evaluated hydraulic fracturing sites,” the blog states.

Lopez McHugh is investigating Marcellus Shale injuries. If you have significant injuries, contact a Lopez McHugh attorney for a free evaluation.

See the blog entry here:

http://blogs.cdc.gov/niosh-science-blog/2012/05/silica-fracking/