Radiation elevated at fracking sites, researchers find
Researchers at Harvard released a new study Tuesday showing elevated radiation levels at fracking sites, saying the concerning levels could pose health risks to residents in the adjacent area.
Sites within 12 miles downwind of 100 fracking wells were found to have radiation levels that are about 7 percent above normal background levels, according to the study.
Harvard researchers analyzed thousands of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s radiation monitor readings nationwide from 2001 to 2017 for its data.
The study added that readings could ascend much higher in areas closer to drilling sites or locations with higher concentrations of fracking wells.
“The increases are not extremely dangerous, but could raise certain health risks to people living nearby,” said the study’s lead author, Petros Koutrakis.
Koutrakis said the source of radiation is likely naturally occurring radioactive material brought to the surface by the high-pressure water pumps used to break down shale formations.
According to the study, the most significant increases in radiation levels occurred in Pennsylvania and Ohio, which have higher concentrations of naturally occurring radioactive material, compared to Texas and New Mexico, which registered lower readings.
Near conventional drilling operations, the study saw fewer increases in particle radiation levels.
Koutrakis said the study was conducted to determine whether radiation was released during the drilling process, adding, “Our hope is that once we understand the source more clearly, there will be engineering methods to control this.”
President Trump has lauded fracking for its economic benefits, allowing the U.S. to grow as one of the most significant oil and gas producers globally.
Still, the method of fracking is concerning to many environmental advocacy organizations and has been the subject of a proposed national fracking ban by Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Darren Soto (D-Fla.).
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has vowed to continue allowing fracking if elected, though runs a stiff battle between appeasing his base on environmental issues and allowing the industry to remain.