By now you’ve probably heard the term fracking. Maybe it sounds like a necessary part of American progress, helping tap into oil and gas reserves that were previously unreachable. Maybe it has the strange ring of a term used in the environmental movement, one to which you don’t relate. Whether or not you’ve heard of it, this modern process for extracting natural resources in a way that couldn’t previously be done will likely influence your way of life.
The recent webinar that the Breast Cancer Fund hosted with renowned scientific researcher Sandra Steingraber helped reveal the processes involved in hydraulic fracturing and why it’s such a public health threat. From concerns for clean air, clean water, and non-toxic products to preventing climate change, fracking offers a wide swath of reasons to be concerned.
“There are more than 15 million Americans live within a mile of a fracking site,” explained Steingraber. She also noted that the known carcinogen benzene has been discovered more than a mile away from fracking sites. In addition to concerns about gases in the air, fracking involves several toxic chemicals, many known hormone disruptors, that can be forced deep into the ground, potentially contaminating public waters. The force of hydraulic fracking can also release some naturally occurring substances from beneath the earth that are hazardous to human health.
“I’ve never seen a bigger human experiment than this one, where we’re exposing so many people to something with such secrecy,” said the scientist well-known for synthesizing technical details for the general public.
This entire interview is worth your time, whether you already know there’s fracking in your community or you’re fighting to keep it out. As a cancer survivor and mother, Steingraber is known for her passionate defense of public health. In calling for a moratorium on fracking, Steingraber once again is at the forefront of a critical health and environmental movement. She’s a leader in New Yorkers Against Fracking and a scientific adviser to Americans Against Fracking. She has also done research for the The Breast Cancer Fund, which has made strides in educating the public how cancer is not typically just a genetic predisposition, but is more often influenced by environmental factors.
In this interview, Steingraber explained that fracking is not unrelated to concerns for safer consumer products, “We’re creating a chemical boom that’s a corollary to the fracking boom. So a lot of the chemicals that we were working so hard to find green substitutes for and phase them out, they’re getting more abundant and they’re getting cheaper and we’re going to get hit with all these plastic bags and plastic this and that and far more farm chemicals because this is part of the result of the fracking boom.”
Steingraber cautioned that the modern environmental health movement depends on cleaner energy. “I’m now convinced that until we close the door on fracking, we don’t have a route to victory with toxic chemical reform. The road to toxic chemical reform runs straight through our energy policy.”