According to recent studies, researchers have learned that air pollutants including benzene, have been discovered at seven different natural gas drilling sites throughout West Virginia in three different counties. Michael McCawley, the chairman of the West Virginia University Public of Health, conducted the study and they were led to find that the biggest concern was with regards to the extremely high levels of benzene found in Wetzel County at the Maury pad. McCawley led this study on behalf of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and here they found that the effects of fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, were releasing more chemicals than one would consider ideal or safe.
The health study examined the airborne radiation levels on the different sites throughout the three counties as well as the dust and noise levels and the air and light emissions. The primary concern with fracking over the years has been due to the amounts of chemicals and the possibility of contamination of the local water supplies. The process of hydraulic fracturing involves using pressurized water combined with a number of chemicals (about 600), and silica sand underground in order to reach the natural gases that are located in the underground bed of the shale rock in the earth.
Once the shale has been penetrated with the chemical and water mixture, the natural gases are then sent back up to the surface and captured for future usage. However, the primary concern with fracking is that because it is injecting so many chemicals into the ground, there is a good possibility that the chemicals will seep into he water supply of the area and therefore cause not only workers to suffer from illnesses, but also the surrounding community due to the chemical exposure. Many residents located around the fracking sites believe that this process has played a significant role in the pollution and contamination of their water supplies because of cracks and fractures located in the wells at the time of the pressurized drillings.
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), they believe that one of the biggest health dangers caused by the fracking process has to do with how the millions of pounds of silica sand that is used in the combination of materials for the fracking process are a hazard particularly to well workers down below. These workers who are downwind of the fracking are believed to be at serious risk of health complications that may affect the lives of the workers indefinitely. One disease is caused by ingesting too much silica sand is called silicosis and the effects can be so devastating on the victim and may lead to irreversible damages caused by the breathing problems.