Fracking Chemicals: What We Know — and What We Don't

April 2, 2015

You have to give the U.S. EPA some credit. The agency has done quite a bit to let the public know about some of the toxic chemicals that are pumped underground at high pressure into shale formations to extract gas and oil. Many "fracking" companies (the term for hydraulic fracturing to extract gas and oil) have tried to keep those chemicals secret — even while some residents complain fracking pollutes their drinking water.

EPA on March 27, 2015, published a database of nearly 700 chemicals used in fracking. That's the good news. The bad news is that EPA had to rely mostly on state and private-sector data reporting to do this — and that some of the chemicals still are not known.

The report stands as an example of how open-source and non-governmental efforts can overcome industry efforts to hide data on toxics. The data were assembled from a database called FracFocus, run jointly by states and industry organizations.

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