About this sample
About this sample
Words: 837 |
5 min read
Published: Nov 16, 2018
Words: 837|Pages: 2|5 min read
Oil and natural gas are crucial to the twenty-first-century. They are used for fuel, tires, household appliances, and even heart valves. Without oil and natural gas, the modern way of life would be almost entirely different. However, the cost of obtaining these products using a process called hydraulic fracturing can be fatal. Hydraulic fracturing is the method by which oil natural gas is extracted from shale rock deep in the earth’s crust. Water pollution, air pollution, and climate change are three of the biggest downfalls of this extraction procedure. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a dangerous operation which negatively affects human and environmental health.
Hydraulic fracturing begins with drilling 7,000 to 12,000 feet into the ground. During this step, toxic gases and respirable crystalline silica are released into the air. Crystalline silica is respirable, which means it can easily be inhaled and absorbed by the human body. A hazard warning released by OSHA in 2012 warns, “Crystalline silica, in the form of sand, can cause silicosis when inhaled by workers.” Silicosis is an incurable lung disease. Some of the symptoms of silicosis include fatigue, extreme shortness of breath, cough, respiratory failure, and, in some cases, death. Despite preventative measures such as masks and protective uniforms, workers at fracking sites are commonly exposed to respirable crystalline silica. Benzene, toluene, xylene, and ethylbenzene are just a few of the deadly chemicals released into the air. A study related to the situation where workers are being exposed to crystalline silica, if they are at a drilling site it is impossible to avoid breathing in the chemicals.
The next step is to inject millions of gallons of a toxic water-sand-chemical mixture into the ground at a very high pressure in order to break up the shale rock. After that, the water is stored in unlined pits in the ground. Sometimes it escapes the pit, contaminating clean water in the area. In December 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency, “concluded for the first time that the fracking process can contaminate drinking water.” This creates a dangerous and potentially life-threatening situation for both humans and wildlife in the area. It is not only affecting above-ground reservoirs, ponds, and lakes, but it also affects groundwater. A study in Colorado found that “77 fracking wastewater spills that impacted groundwater supplies, of which 90 percent were contaminated with unsafe levels of benzene, a chemical linked to cancer.” There are organizations who specialize in cleaning up contaminated sites all over the United States, but the compounds in fracking fluid differ from site to site and aren’t commonly analyzed in commercial labs. Scientific American revealed that as a result of this, “conducting a groundwater investigation related to fracking is extremely complicated.”. The inability to analyze these compounds makes it tough for doctors to treat patients who have drank the contaminated water. Despite the fact that hydraulic fracturing has been proven to be the cause of so many health problems, the method by which fracking water has not changed. If a solution is not found before it escalates, the consequences could be devastating for not only humans but also the environment.
In addition to harming human health, newer studies are finding that hydraulic fracturing also contributes to climate change. Many studies have found that “during the fracking process, small amounts of methane are released directly into the atmosphere.” To enumerate, air pollution from fracking affects more than just the nearby area. “Air pollution from hydraulic fracturing operations can likely travel hundreds of miles, even into states with little or no fracking,” one of the new studies released. This means that even if one area, a country, state, or community bans fracking, they could still be affected by fracking sites hundreds of miles away.
Natural gas is believed to be cleaner and safer than previous mass-produced resources. It lessens the world’s dependence on coal, which is thought to be worse for the environment. The Smithsonian stated, “Burning natural gas, for instance, produces nearly half as much carbon dioxide per unit of energy compared with coal.” Fracking does produce less Carbon Dioxide than coal, but other, more harmful chemicals are released in the process. Natural gas appears to be the better alternative, but it usually is just as equally damaging as coal. The Guardian says, “shale gas and oil extraction were found to be easily the dominant source giving leak rates of 0.18-2.8% even before the gas was distributed to users.” The leak rate of shale gas, which contains methane, is far more detrimental than the effects of coal production and usage combined.
Hydraulic fracturing, the method by which humans obtain oil and natural gas, is dangerous and destructive. Water and air pollution are two major results of fracking, which deteriorate human and environmental health. Despite the fact that fracking has been proven to be damaging to both the planet and its inhabitants, mankind will continue to do it because their dependence on natural gas is too great. As a result, nature will continue to deteriorate until an alternative which humans will utilize, is found.
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