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Can hydrofracking affect the plants and animals we eat?


That’s the question I explore in the current issue of The Nation, which can be read online here. (And here’s a clip of me talking about the article on the Heritage Radio Network.) Thanks to support from the Food and Environment Reporting Network, I was able to spend a fair amount of time looking into the illnesses and deaths of livestock that live (and eat and breathe) in close proximity to shale-gas wells, which rely on secret combinations of hundreds of different chemicals, many of which are considered toxic, carcinogenic, teratogenic, or mutagenic. I spoke with ranchers whose animals died suddenly of asphyxiation or pulmonary edema, gave birth to deformed or stillborn offspring, lost between 60 and 80 pounds a week, quit producing milk for calves, lost half their tails, developed lesions and infections, and died of massive organ failure. The story raises many questions: are drilling and fracking operations sickening livestock? Can people who eat those animals get sick? Unfortunately, we don’t yet have the answers because:

a) these studies haven’t been funded

b) industry doesn’t reveal all the chemicals it uses to drill and frack

c) complete pre-drilling information on water, air and soil quality is rarely available

d) livestock owners are often reticent, or outright forbidden by nondisclosure agreements, to speak to investigators

My hope for the story is that government will respond to the concerns of ranchers, veterinarians, and scientists; require full disclosure of chemicals and compounds used in oil-and-gas operations; and allocate funds to conduct these much-needed studies.

Photo of cow that lost part of its tail — one of many ailments found in cattle following hydrofracturing of the Bakken Shale in North Dakota — courtesy of Jacki Schilke.

4 comments

1 Louie b. Free { 12.11.12 at 6:33 pm }

Elizabeth,
thank YOU so very much for investigating this and writing our very important story. Most in our broadcast area are self-blinding themselves due to the short term economic benefit. I’m old enough to remember Love Canal and Chernobyl
If we damage our access to clean air/water and food, all the money from ‘down under’ will be worthless.
I’m old enough to remember Love Canal and Chernobyl…..

2 David Ratke { 12.15.12 at 8:53 am }

I work on cement and frac jobs. The com. I work for is so strict on spills that you can get fired for making spills and not having containment equipment on your unit. I grew up in Okla.I raised cattle and farm crops. The cow pic. is from where she was born in winter and her tail froze off I have seen this happen. Frac jobs controlled pumping of water and chemicals. Spills are cleaned during and after each job. As for your calves dying did you see for your self how the cattle were taken care of by the farmers. If they do not have enough grass or hay eat they will look like the cow in the pic. That cow is at least 13 to 14 years old. That would equal out to 75 to 80 yr. old human. That cow was put on that pasture just for the pic. All of the chemicals are on file with the Fed. Gov. and State Hazard control teams. Texas has the most strict rules on water and soil. As for air control the states and Fed. Gov. have rules. Where I work we have to take test each year on storm water ground water, Air poll. Spills. If you dont pass the test your fired.. Look at how people buy bottled water. It is the same water that is at a faucet it is a waste of land fill space

3 fracking - should we be concerned? - Page 8 - Fly Fishing Forums { 12.17.12 at 10:56 am }

[...] basin blowout you've quoted above, you may be aware of alternative facts or contributing factors: Can hydrofracking affect the plants and animals we eat? — Elizabeth Royte Many thanks again for any more light you can shed… [...]

4 Can hydrofracking affect the plants and animals we eat? « Elizabeth Royte { 01.08.13 at 8:03 pm }

[...] Can hydrofracking affect the plants and animals we eat? [...]

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