A group of scientists, led by a Northeastern environmental justice lab, analyzed available data on chemicals used in fracking and arrived at some staggering conclusions. Almost 18 million people, or 5.4% of the U.S. population, live within a mile of an oil or gas well. About one-third are non-white and from ethnic backgrounds. And older individuals, young children and people with low incomes are among the most vulnerable. The purpose of the research was to highlight the lack of mandatory disclosure in federal legislation.
“We really wanted to draw attention to the fact that the environmental and, therefore, the environmental justice impacts of fracking aren’t being properly assessed because of the lack of monitoring and [existing] exemptions,” says Vivian Underhill, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Wylie Environmental Data Justice Lab at Northeastern and the lead author of the study.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a process that involves injecting water, sand and chemicals under high pressure into a bedrock formation through a well. This creates new fractures in the rock or increases the size and connectivity of existing fractures to free up oil or gas reserves.