Pennsylvania

Energy. Environment. Economy.

CDC Wants to Track Fracking Chemicals

A top government public health official says not enough is known about the chemicals used in the natural gas drilling process. Vikas Kapil is the Chief Medical Officer and the Associate Director for Science at the Centers for Disease Control and the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry. Kapil spoke this week at a conference on the public health impacts of shale gas production in Arlington, Va.

“But even if we did have a detailed list, [of chemicals used to extract natural gas]” said Kapil, “for many of these, the toxicology literature is lacking.”

Kapil says the CDC operates the best biomonitoring laboratories in the world, which could be used to track human exposure to hazardous chemicals used in gas drilling and monitor their health impacts.

He says the program has the capacity to test blood and urine samples for more than 400 chemicals that may exist in the blood at very low levels. The agency also publishes toxicological profiles for 174 different chemicals. But he says that’s just a fraction of the 60,000 to 80,000 chemicals currently in use in our environment.

“Establishing a link between exposure and health outcomes is really difficult,” said Kapil.

He says theCDC’s Natinal Environmental Public Health Tracking Program oshould be applied to natural gas production. In fact, he says Congress recently instructed the agency to do just that.

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