Cancer and Tobacco Control Environmental Health Water & Sanitation

Fracking could endanger Karoo water

Written by Wilma Stassen

The Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) has added its voice to the fracking debate, arguing that fracking could dump cancer-causing chemicals into the drinking water of Karoo communities where fracking is proposed.

Fracking in the Karoo could release cancer-causing chemicals into drinking water, CANSA warns

Fracking in the Karoo could release cancer-causing chemicals into drinking water, CANSA warns

Hydraulic Fracturing, or “fracking,” is a mining technique in which typically water is mixed with sand and chemicals, and injected at high pressure into rock to create small fractures. These fractures then allow for the extraction of liquids like gas or petroleum.

“Potentially hazardous substances are often added to the fracking fluid or are released through the process,” says Dr Carl Albrecht, CANSA’s head of research.

It is estimated that about 100 of the more than 700 chemicals added to fracking fluid are carcinogenic. These cancer-causing chemicals include benzene, which causes leukemia in children, and formaldehyde, which has been linked to throat and stomach cancers among others. Formaldehyde has also been known to cause drug resistance in bacteria, an issue South Africa is already struggling with in terms of tuberculosis. 

Although mining companies are adamant that no spills or leaks will take place that may contaminate underground aquifers, Jonathan Deal with Treasure the Karoo Action Group said there are more than 1 000 cases of contamination in the United States, where fracking has been practiced for more than 50 years. [quote float= left]“Fracking fluid laced with as many as 750 chemicals will need to be disposed of, and there is no clarity on how this will happen”

“Because of the high pressure and depth of operation, it’s not surprising that spills of fracking fluid on the way down or up have been recorded,” Albrecht tells Health-e News. “Fracking fluid laced with as many as 750 chemicals will need to be disposed of, and there is no clarity on how this will happen in the Karoo.”

CANSA has collected and tested samples of Karoo water to estimate its water quality before fracking takes place. If the mining practice is allowed, these baseline samples will be tested against water samples taken post-fracking to determine if water has been polluted.

“This data could be used as evidence in court where a contaminated farm or affected community would need to supply ‘before and after’ samples of drinking water aquifers to prove pollutions,” adds Albrecht.

CANSA is calling for further baseline data to be collected

“It is hoped that this initiative will induce fracking companies to conduct their operations with the greatest of care and protect Karoo plants, animals and humans from any carcinogenic harm through any form of contamination of underground drinking water aquifers,” Albrecht says. – Health-e News.

About the author

Wilma Stassen

Wilma Stassen is a reporter at Health-e News Service. She focuses on non-communicable diseases. Follow her on Twitter @Lawim