Beryllium, one of most toxic substances known, in fracking flowback
When it comes to toxic substances that start with B, which are present in fracking flowback and therefore find a variety of ways to enter the human body, I’ve mostly been aware of benzene, 2-butoxyethanol, and barium. Maybe some of the other ones that begin with B — the benzene derivatives, the phthalates — are harder to pronounce.
I only heard yesterday that it’s present in fracking flowback. Today I learned that “beryllium fumes and dust are one of the most toxic substances known,” according to the Beryllium Support Group. Beryllium is classified as a known human carcinogen by EPA and ATSDR. And sure enough, it’s used to make drill bits for the shale gas industry.
The industry brags about that. For example, although the Agora Financial writer can’t spell “indispensable,” here’s a tidbit:
Beryllium’s strength and nonsparking properties have made it indispensible in the recovery of our nation’s shale oil and shale gas… New directional drilling …
Beryllium kills. It is best known for debilitating the lungs, but it can also impair the liver, spleen, and other organs; it can even turn the feet blue. See the ATSDR Public Health Statement about Berylium here.
I can’t stop thinking about the workers exposed to fracking flowback: Randy Moyer, with debilitating illness including intense respiratory distress that’s sent him to the emergency room 11 times; and the images of workers cleaning out frac tanks without even wearing a respirator. I think about Carol French’s daughter with her enlarged spleen and others in Bradford County with enlarged and ruptured spleens. There is no factsheet about beryllium, you can be sure, distributed either to workers or to residents in shale country.
Beryllium has, in fact, been turning up in flowback from shale gas and oil drilling for some time. Awash in awareness of other toxic materials, some of us concerned about worker health and public health have overlooked it.
From a post one year ago in the comments section of this StateImpact article, beryllium is listed as a flowback component, known to the state of New York at least by 2011:
Just for the heck of it let’s look at the chemicals found in the flowback water. This is from the state of NY that recently extended it’s moratorium. As already stated, many of these chemicals are deadly in small concentrations.
SGEIS Revised Date of Completion of Revised dSGEIS:
September 7, 2011
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement
On The Oil, Gas and Solution Mining
Table 5.9 – Parameters present in a limited set of flowback
analytical results103 (Updated July 2011)
CAS Number Parameters Detected in Flowback from PA and WV
00078-93-3 2-Butanone / Methyl ethyl ketone
109-06-8 2-Picoline (2-methyl pyridine)
00067-63-0 2-Propanol / Isopropyl Alcohol / Isopropanol /
00072-55-9 4,4 DDE
00064-19-7 Acetic acid
07664-41-7 Aqueous ammonia
12672-29-6 Aroclor 1248
00100-51-6 Benzyl alcohol
00111-44-4 Bis(2-Chloroethyl) ether
00117-81-7 Bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate / Di (2-ethylhexyl)
You can read the full list, including C – Z, on this comment posted by Bill B, here on StateImpact’s website — to see the rest of the alphabet of fracking flowback components.
To zoom back out from this one terribly toxic and potentially fatal flowback component, into the big picture, we highly recommend reading as much as possible of this special issue of New Solutions, focused entirely on evaluating shale gas impacts:
SCIENTIFIC, ECONOMIC, SOCIAL, ENVIRONMENTAL, AND
HEALTH POLICY CONCERNS RELATED TO SHALE GAS EXTRACTION
Guest editors: Robert Oswald and Michelle Bamberger
A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy
Volume 23, No. 1 — 2013
Keep on learning. Keep on speaking up. And whatever you do, ramp up your level of concern and outspokenness on behalf of workers in this industry. Workers are still told “that’s just salty water,” and made to experience lung contact and skin contact with extremely dangerous substances. Workers are bringing that dried flowback home to their families; worker Rick “Mac” Sawyer experienced skin rashes and blackouts — only to find that his family experienced symptoms also, through contact with him and with his clothing. People should not be made into non-consensual guinea pigs! Speak up!