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Friday, November 14, 2014

Toothpaste and ice cream

A study of one component of fracking fluid - surfactants - has found chemicals used in ice cream, laxatives and toothpaste, according to new research from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Analysis of Hydraulic Fracturing Flowback and Produced Waters Using Accurate Mass: Identification of Ethoxylated Surfactants was published in the journal Analytical Chemistry. It led to this misleading headline and simplistic story in The Washington Post:

Study: Fracking chemicals found in toothpaste and ice cream
Why misleading and simplistic? First, the article says that "Though the fluid is mostly water and sand..." That's true - on its face. But a typical frack job, in Pennsylvania at least, uses four to six million gallons of water - and that number is growing. And if you do the math, each frack job uses on the order of 25,000 to 120,000 gallons of chemicals. So, while the fluid is "mostly water," I'm not convinced that the use of tens of thousands of gallons of chemicals - even diluted, and some that are "no more toxic than common household items" - is inconsequential.

Much more importantly, surfactants are only one component of the fracking cocktail. The nature of the other chemicals are of serious concern. See, for example, this and this.

The Post story, in my opinion, did not perform a pubic service.

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