Workers at fracking sites are exposed to a chemical that can have serious health side effects, say researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.
After testing 11 air samples from fracking sites in five states, including Pennsylvania, researchers found levels of the chemical silica that exceeded the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's safe exposure limits.
According to the report, exposure to silica can lead to silicosis, an illness known to cause inflammation and scarring of the lungs and impaired breathing. The CDC recommends that people working with silica sand wear protective gear and that drilling companies consider switching to one of the available alternatives that do not carry the same health risks for oil and gas workers.
The process of hydraulic fracking includes pumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of water, sand, and chemicals into a well to fracture shale rock and release the natural gas trapped deep beneath the Earth's surface. Currently, there are almost 3,000 drilled wells and over 7,000 permits approved for future wells in Pennsylvania.