I undertake the next series of articles with some trepidation. There is no grinding of an ax here. My purpose is to highlight some of the health risks, especially the pulmonary ones, which workers in the hydraulic fracturing industry encounter. The common term for hydraulic fracturing is “fracking” and I will use it here.

Fracking has been used since the 1940’s to help increase the production of oil wells. This process was shown to increase oil and gas well production by 50%. Only a few thousand gallons of water were used in each well in 1953 and by 2010 almost 60% of new wells used hydraulic fracturing.

Currently, the process of fracking involves the high pressure injection of 7 to 20 million gallons of water, tons of sand at concentrations of 5%-20%, along with a proprietary (secret) mix of chemicals. In 2012 racking was underway in 17 states and more than 22,000 wells were drilled or permits obtained using hydraulic fracturing. Here in Pennsylvania much of the fracking is associated with the Marcellus Shale industry working in the so called Appalachian Basin. What are the pulmonary risks to those workers involved at the drilling sites where fracking is used?

The answer comes from the use of hundreds of pounds of sand, which is 99% silica, in each well. It is estimated that it takes 500 trips by large trailer trucks to deliver enough sand to use in one well. This is where the pulmonary danger is located for the workers at the drilling sites. Tune in next week for more info.