Fracking operation

Fracking well head connected to fracking pumps. Photo by Anton Foltin for Shutterstock.


“The E.P.A. in 2011 approved the use of these chemicals, used to ease the flow of oil from the ground, despite the agency’s own grave concerns about their toxicity, according to the documents, which were reviewed by The New York Times.”

Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) has been leading the charge against fracking for years. In 2019 PSR collaborated with Concerned Health Professionals of New York (CHPNY) to publish a compendium of research on fracking that summarizes over 1,500 articles and reports building a body of knowledge to support their public health campaign to end fracking.1

An example of the studies detailed in the Compendium2 is one looking at data on birth weight of babies born near fracking sites:

“A 2018 study in the Journal of Health Economics, for instance, found that the babies of Pennsylvania mothers living within 1.5 miles of gas wells had increased incidence of low birth weight. Babies with low birth weight (under 5.5 pounds) are over 20 times more likely to die in infancy than babies with healthy birth weight.”1

“Babies exposed in utero to fracking are likely to face additional challenges throughout their lives. They may suffer long-term neurologic disability, impaired language development and academic success, and increased risk of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes.” 1

Most recently, Physicians for Social Responsibility used the Freedom of Information Act to force the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to open its records detailing the agency’s approval for the fracking industry to use chemicals that posed potential health risks. As reported by The New York Times:

“For much of the past decade, oil companies engaged in drilling and fracking have been allowed to pump into the ground chemicals that, over time, can break down into toxic substances known as PFAS [known as “forever chemicals] — a class of long-lasting compounds known to pose a threat to people and wildlife — according to internal documents from the Environmental Protection Agency…Nick Conger, an E.P.A. spokesman, said that the chemicals in question were approved a decade ago, and that amendments to laws since then now required the agency to affirm the safety of new chemicals before they are allowed into the marketplace.”3

As the PSR-CHPNY Compendium states, “public health risks from unconventional gas and oil extraction are real, the range of adverse environmental impacts wide, and the negative economic consequences considerable.”2

A “research, education and public outreach campaign” of the Independent Petroleum Association of America called EnergyInDepth, cites 25 studies that conclude that fracking “is not a major threat to groundwater.” 4 The organization touts the success of the natural gas extraction process in this way: “Fracking is a uniquely American success story that has provided immense benefits around the nation. By safely unlocking America’s abundant natural resources, fracking has created millions of American jobs, reduced energy prices, brought cleaner air by significantly reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to 25-year-lows, strengthened our national security, and transformed the United States into a global energy superpower.” 4

In contrast, the editors of the Compendium conclude: “Our examination of the peer-reviewed medical, public health, biological, earth sciences, and engineering literature uncovered no evidence that fracking can be practiced in a manner that does not threaten human health.” 2

You can read the New York Times article here that goes into more detail concerning whistle-blower complaints about how the E.P.A. assessments of potentially toxic chemicals were handled. A link to the PSR-CHPNY Compendium can be found here.


1Barbara Gottlieb. The Research Is In: Stop Fracking ASAP. OtherWords, 31 July 2019.

2Concerned Health Professionals of New York, & Physicians for Social Responsibility. (2019, June). Compendium of scientific, medical, and media findings demonstrating risks and harms of fracking (unconventional gas and oil extraction) (6th ed.).

3Hiroko Tabuchi. E.P.A. Approved Toxic Chemicals for Fracking a Decade Ago, New Files Show. The New York Times, 12 July 2021.

4Energy In Depth. Hydraulic Fracturing. Independent Petroleum Association of America.