Vital Nature: Fracking and our food


In the midst of a domestic energy boom, livestock are falling ill in a timely correlation to the surge of hydraulic fracturing, a procedure known as fracking. Scientists have more to investigate in these regards, but the known chemicals used to fracture the earth and released into the atmosphere provide more than a suggesting cause.

Fracking is a process where massive volumes of fluids and chemical mixtures are injected at high pressure into the underground in order to crack open or fracture layers of rock, thus releasing what was otherwise unattainable natural gas. Despite the tremendous uncertainty surrounding this process and its short and long term impacts, fissuring the earth for its oils and gases is no regulated procedure. Fracking companies are currently unrestrained from their practices on a federal level and operate with virtually no oversight. Right now they are still exempt from laws like the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act and are not obligated to disclose which chemicals they pump into our earth and waterways. These risky operations are in effect poising our air, water, soil and everything connected to those three.

A news report by Robert Oswald, a professor of molecular medicine at Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine and veterinarian Michelle Bamberger, DVM ‘85, declares that dozens of cases of illness, reproductive issues and death have been exhibited to in cows, horses, goats, llama, chickens, domestic house pets and humans nearby fracking sites.

The reporters interviewed animal owners in six states: Colorado, Louisiana, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas. They documented 24 cases of animals were potentially affected by gas drilling. One case in Louisiana shared that within an hour of direct exposure to hydraulic fracturing fluid, 17 cows perished. A necropsy report listed respiratory failure and circulatory collapse as likely causes.

Less than one percent of the fluid that affected the cows consisted of additives to the water, yet the fluid proves toxic enough to kill cows so soon after they drink it.

The negative health impacts go beyond fracking chemicals themselves, claims Thomas Shelley, a chemical safety and hazardous materials specialist. The diesel and natural gas emissions from pumps, compressors, trucks and other necessary equipment contain a complex of benzenes, toluene, xylene and other volatile organic compounds.

The subsequent drilling and traffic upstir high levels of dust and, at the same time, methane from venting and flaring adds more pollution to the atmosphere. When the air is filled with these pollutants, it is all the harder to avoid their effects.

These chemicals will seep, without warning or detection, into our own water supplies, and are also potentially already within the bodies of the animals we will consume. The risk is held high; fracking and its effects will continue to pan out as the drive for fossil fuel becomes are more treacherous and competitive one.