ALERT Project

Documenting human health impacts of exposure to crude oil, tar sands oil, and fracking activities through education, testing & treatment of at-risk populations.
Strengthening policies to protect the public and our workers from oil and chemical exposures. Continue reading


Ozone: colorless, usually odorless, dangerous!

I receive text alerts whenever the Air Quality Index indicates there is smog/ pollution in my area. This text message arrived on my phone for 10 of the last 14 days plus 3 earlier days in June (June 8,9,10,17,18,20,22,23,25,27,28,29 and today, 30) “ Smog levels are UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS”. I get my alerts from the Sierra Club  but other sites can also send out this information.

Ozone is usually undetectable without monitoring. However, some people report a pungent odor and we all see the smog hanging around the mountains. For people with asthma, high ozone may trigger an attack. Those with other respiratory disorders such as COPD will also note increased difficulty breathing. I know that when the levels are high, I return from my walk with a rapid respiratory rate even if I am not walking rapidly.

The American Lung Association gave many counties in Colorado an F for air quality. (http://www.stateoftheair.org/2015/states/colorado/) Those counties with lots of fracking, such as Weld and those adjacent to fracking, such as Boulder, received an F. Denver, despite its heavy traffic, is slightly better,D so don’t believe the fossil fuel industry when they say this is due to automobiles, In fact studies have found that 55% of the ozone-precursor pollution in Erie, CO can be traced directly to oil and gas production.

Why is this important? According to Wikipedia: “Ozone is a powerful oxidant which causes ozone to damage mucous and respiratory tissues in animals, and also tissues in plants, above concentrations of about 100 ppb. This makes ozone a potent respiratory hazard and pollutant near ground level.”

This information is available from many sources, but Sierra Club states:
“Smog (ground-level ozone) is a dangerous air pollution that harms your family’s health. When we breathe smoggy air, it causes inflammation that has been compared to sunburn. Children whose lungs are still developing, senior citizens, and persons with asthma and other respiratory ailments are most at risk from smog pollution, but no one is safe outside on high ozone days. Even at low levels, smog is associated with low birth weight in newborns and premature death from a host of causes. Ozone triggers life-threatening asthma attacks, sending tens of thousands of children to emergency rooms each year.”

Ozone is created when Nitrous Oxide and VOC’s (volatile organic compounds), react with heat and sunlight. The formula is NOx+VOC+Heat+Sunlight= Ozone.

Physicians for Social Responsibility have a well-documented paper  describing the connection between the VOC’s released from fracking operations and ozone production. An excerpt from this paper:
“Fracking operations release VOCs “at each stage of production and delivery which then mix with nitrogen oxides from the exhaust of diesel-fueled trucks and equipment to form ozone. VOCs and ozone pollution have been detected at dangerous levels at fracking sites in Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah.
• One study in Northeastern Colorado found exceptionally high levels of VOCs in the air and traced the chemical signature of around 55% of them directly back to gas and oil operations.
• For parts of 2011, the level of ozone pollution in rural Wyoming’s gas drilling areas exceeded that of Los Angeles and other major cities. The peak, at 116 parts per billion, significantly exceeded the EPA’s healthy limit of 75 parts per billion.
• Uintah County, Utah, home to one of the highest-producing oil and gas fields in the country, has experienced dangerously high levels of VOCs and resultant ozone for over five years. The amount of VOCs released in 2013 in Uintah County alone was calculated as the equivalent of emissions from 100 million automobiles.”

In this paper, Physicians for Social Responsibility calls for a moratorium on fracking until adequate regulations and safeguards are in place to protect human health. We Coloradans and others who live in the gas patch are being slowly poisoned by fracking operations.
Coloradans Against Fracking will continue to work toward eliminating this dangerous, dirty industry from our state.


F is for Failure

I am posting this on behalf of Lauren Swain.

Coloradans Against Fracking
Report Card—June 6, 2015
Evaluating the performance of the Colorado Legislature
and Governor John W. Hickenlooper in their duty to protect Coloradans from the harmful impacts of fracking.

The facts included in this report card demonstrate that the Colorado State Legislature and Governor John W. Hickenlooper have failed to protect the people of Colorado from the harmful impacts of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for oil and gas. Because recent scientific studies have shown that fracking operations jeopardize human health and the environment with the introduction of enormous quantities of toxic chemicals into the air, soil, and water,[1] the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, has banned fracking. Vermont has also banned the practice, as have the countries of France, Scotland, and Bulgaria. Other states, such as Maryland, and countries, such as Wales, have adopted, or are considering, moratoria and bans on fracking. Coloradans deserve the same protection as the citizens of these states and countries, but, due to the failure of our legislature and Governor to take meaningful action, we continue to suffer increasing risk to our lives, our property, and our democratic rights as the State of Colorado issues more permits for more wells to be drilled and fractured near homes and schools, all while denying local communities their right to restrict these dangerous operations.

Protecting Our Climate—F
Fracking for natural gas, as well as the processing, storage, and distribution of natural gas releases climate-altering methane into the atmosphere. Over a 100-year period, methane is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a climate disruptor.[2] Fracking for oil also releases methane, while the consumption of oil is a leading source of the carbon pollution damaging Earth’s climate.[3] Climate change threatens our state with more floods, forest fires, and drought[4]—diminishing our natural resources, destroying homes, and placing additional burdens on Colorado taxpayers and water rate payers.

Protecting Colorado’s Water—F
Oil and gas operators have, on average, spilled 200 gallons of petroleum chemicals per day over the past decade.[5] Over 700,000 gallons of toxic liquids have remained in Colorado soil after initial cleanup, often contaminating groundwater.[6] In 2014, operators reported almost two spills per day in Colorado, with over 10 percent of those spills contaminating groundwater.[7] And, even after the devastating floods of 2013 inundated fracking operations and released over 90,000 gallons of oil and produced water into Colorado’s rivers and waterways,[8] our state government still allows operators to drill new wells in Colorado’s flood plains,[9] risking more contamination when the wells and tanks are flooded again. The University of Missouri found contamination of the Colorado River with endocrine-disrupting chemicals near sites where fracking spills had been reported and supposedly remediated.[10] Toxic oil and gas industry spills like the one at Parachute Creek require massive cleanup operations that can take months or even years.[11]

Protecting Colorado’s Air Quality—F
Recent studies by the University of Colorado, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and others have found that oil and gas fracking operations contribute to grossly elevated levels of carcinogenic benzene in the air over the Front Range.[12] Researchers recently measured benzene levels almost 8 times higher than government agencies had estimated.[13]

The American Lung Association has recently rated the air quality for Front Range counties with D’s and F’s, due to ozone pollution.[14] Over half of ozone-precursor emissions in northeastern Colorado can be traced to oil and gas production.[15] As a result of increased pollution from fracking operations, air quality in our nine-country Front Range region is out of compliance with federal standards, placing Colorado at risk for penalties and sanctions, as well as health-care burdens.[16]

Protecting Colorado’s Public Health—F
Studies have shown that toxins released into the air and water by fracking operations are linked to harmful short- and long-term health effects including neurological problems, cancer, and birth defects.[17]

Ozone-precursor pollution from fracking operations aggravates asthma and other serious health problems, and diminishes the length and quality of human life—especially for children and the elderly. Victims are forced to miss school and work, while additional burdens are placed on healthcare service providers and public health programs.[18]

Protecting Colorado’s Public Safety—F
Fires, explosions, and spills occur frequently at fracking sites in Colorado. At least seven fracking-related fires occurred on the Front Range in 2014,[19] including one that killed a Halliburton employee.[20] A recent fire and explosion at a fracking waste disposal facility near Greeley caused oil tanks to fly into the air. The resulting fire took hours to put out and caused four nearby homes to be evacuated.[21] That same waste-disposal facility was linked to earthquakes in the Greeley area last year.[22] The US Geological Survey has associated the increasing number of earthquakes in fracking regions with the disposal of billions of gallons of toxic waste into injection wells.[23] Earthquakes threaten public safety, destroy property, and can damage infrastructure, including roads and dams.

Protecting Colorado’s Natural Environment—F
Oil and gas production is reducing the viability of rare species like the sage grouse.[24] Habitats for deer are being fragmented and compromised by access roads and drilling pads.[25] Our scenic values are increasingly marred by rigs and tanks, and our streams and rivers are contaminated by spills. The impacts of fracking operations on water quality, air quality, soil, and scenic values threaten Colorado’s tourism, fishing, hunting, ranching, farming, and brewing industries.

Protecting Coloradan’s Property Rights—F
The oil and gas industry is permitted to drill and frack for oil and gas against the will of surface owners and neighbors. Home values can plummet as a result of fracking taking place on or near a property[26], and access to loans and property insurance is sometimes denied to surface owners.[27] Operators may also demand that mineral-rights owners lease now, against their will, or face the threat of state-mandated “forced-pooling” of their property.[28]

Protecting Colorado Voters—F
In 2012 and 2013, voters in the cities of Longmont, Fort Collins, Broomfield, Lafayette, and Boulder passed ballot measures placing moratoria or bans on hydraulic fracturing out of concern for their health, environment, well-being, and economy. Since that time, most of these communities have been sued by the industry, based on the premise that state law allows only the state to regulate oil and gas production.

The Colorado Legislature and Governor Hickenlooper have taken no action to protect these communities and others from lawsuits invalidating the will of voters or local governments.[29] While the 2015 legislature was in session, the state of Colorado issued permits for almost 1000 new wells, in addition over 4000 permits awarded to the industry last year.[30] Our legislators and our governor have failed to act on citizens’ pleas to stop the threat of preemption-based lawsuits when local voters and governments adopt measures to protect their residents from the harmful impacts of fracking. Local governments are still forced to spend taxpayer money to defend their voters’ rights, or surrender their rights to the oil and gas industry.

Written and compiled by Lauren Swain, 350 Colorado Fracking Specialist

CAF Report Card Sources:
[1] Concerned Health Professionals of New York, Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking, 2nd Ed., Dec. 11, 2014. http://concernedhealthny.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/CHPNY-Fracking-Compendium.pdf
[2] see 2
[3] US Environmental Protection Agency, Overview of Greenhouse Gases-Carbon Dioxide Emissions, updated May 7, 2015. http://epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/gases/ch4.htmlhttp://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/gases/co2.html
[4] Howard, Brian Clark, “Amid Drought, Explaining Colorado’s Extreme Floods” National Geographic, September 13, 2013. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/09/130913-colorado-flood-boulder-climate-change-drought-fires/
[5] Finley, Bruce. “Colorado faces oil boom “death sentence” for soil, eyes microbe fix.” The Denver Post. May 4, 2014.


[6] see 6
[7] Finley, Bruce. “Oil and gas spills surge, two a day, residents often not notified.” The Denver Post. July 14, 2014. http://www.denverpost.com/environment/ci_26233762/oil-and-gas-spills-surge-two-day-residents
[8] Rueschhoff, Austin. “Oil and Gas Operations and Colorado’s Floods: The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commssion Tackles the Issues.” University of Denver Water Law Review. November 14, 2013. http://duwaterlawreview.com/tag/colorado-flood/
[9] Finley, Bruce. “Colorado adopts rules for oil and gas operations in flood zones.” The Denver Post. March 2, 2015. http://www.denverpost.com/environment/ci_27625238/colorado-active-oil-and-gas-rigs-down-start
[10] University of Missouri Health System, “MU Researchers Find Fracking Chemicals Disrupt Hormone Function.” January 3, 2014 http://medicine.missouri.edu/news/0214.php
[11] Webb, Dennis. “ ‘Gift from nature’ eases threat of contaminants in creek.” Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. February 9, 2015. http://www.gjsentinel.com/news/articles/gift-from-nature-eases-threat-of-contaminants-in-c/
[12] Jaffe, Mark. “Researchers assess emissions from Colorado oil and gas fields.” The Denver Post. November 16, 2014. http://www.denverpost.com/business/ci_26942340/researchers-assess-emissions-from-colorado-oil-and-gas
[13] Finley, Bruce. “Scientists flying over Colorado oil and gas boom find worse air pollution.” The Denver Post. May 6, 2014. http://www.denverpost.com/environment/ci_25719742/scientists-flying-over-colorado-oil-boom-find-worse
[14] American Lung Association. “State of the Air: 2015—Report Card Colorado” http://www.stateoftheair.org/2015/states/colorado/
[15] Aguilar, John. “Cu-Boulder, NOAA study uncovers oil and gas emission’s ‘chemical signature’.” The Daily Camera. January 16, 2013 http://www.dailycamera.com/ci_22390113/cu-boulder-noaa-study-uncovers-oil-and-gas
[16] Finley, Bruce. “Bad air: Denver, western cities rise up list of nation’s most-polluted.” The Denver Post. April 29, 2014. http://www.denverpost.com/environment/ci_28013352/bad-air-denver-western-cities-rise-up-list
[17] Rice, Doyle. “Is fracking polluting the air?” USA Today. December 17, 2014. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/12/16/fracking-air-pollution-health-nrdc/20451639/
[18] US Environmental Protection Agency. “Ground Level Ozone: Health Effects.” November 26, 2014. http://www.epa.gov/groundlevelozone/health.html
[19] Finley, Bruce. “Front Range firefighters gird after oil fires as wells encroach.” The Denver Post. May 1, 2014. http://www.denverpost.com/environment/ci_25671583/front-range-firefighters-gird-after-oil-fires-wells
[1] Wallis, Daniel. “Halliburton worker killed in Colorado fracking accident.” Reuters. November 13, 2014. http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/11/13/us-usa-colorado-fracking-idUSKCN0IX2MH20141113
[1] Redmond, James. “Greeley firefighters extinguish blaze near Greeley-Weld County Airport.” Greeley Tribune. April 17, 2015. http://www.greeleytribune.com/news/15948232-113/greeley-firefighters-extinguish-blaze-near-greeley-weld-county-airport
[22] see 22
[23] US Geological Survey. “Induced Earthquakes: Featured Research Projects” May 1, 2015. http://earthquake.usgs.gov/research/induced/
[24] McKinnon, Taylor. “1.7 Million Acre Fracking Plan Draws Protest in Colorado.” Center for Biological Diversity. April 28, 2015. http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2015/fracking-04-28-2015.html
[25] Taylor, Phil. “Sportsmen seek room for wildlife amid drilling push.” Energy and Environment News. October 21, 2014. http://www.eenews.net/stories/1060007647
[26] McMahon, Jeff. “Pollution fears crush home prices near fracking wells.” Forbes. Apri 10, 2014. http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffmcmahon/2014/04/10/pollution-fears-crush-home-prices-near-fracking-wells/
[27] Conlin, Michelle and Grow, Brian. “Special Report: US builders hoard mineral rights under new homes.” Reuters. October 9, 2013. http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/09/us-usa-fracking-rights-specialreport-idUSBRE9980AZ20131009
[28] Harder, Abby. “Compulsory pooling laws protecting the conflicting rights of neighboring landowners.” National Conference of State Legislatures. October 24, 2014. http://www.ncsl.org/research/energy/compulsory-pooling-laws-protecting-the-conflicting-rights-of-neighboring-landowners.aspx
[29] Marcus, Peter. “Fracking battle rages on in Colorado.” Durango Herald. May 12, 2015. http://durangoherald.com/article/20150512/NEWS01/150519904/Fracking-battle-wages-on–
[30] Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. “Colorado Weekly and Monthly Oil & Gas Statistics.” June 1, 2015. http://cogcc.state.co.us/documents/data/downloads/statistics/CoWklyMnthlyOGStats.pdf


Health Care Professionals Concerned About Fracking

As a retired Registered Nurse, I am very interested in the health aspects of fracking pollution.  I recently had an encounter that was a new experience for me.  It made me sad, glad, proud and angry. Fighting this fossil fuel industry is certainly an emotional experience!

I was handed a sheaf of papers that contained copies of studies, published by the Endocrine Society, documenting the implications of air pollution emitted by fracking operations. These studies reported on the horrible effects that will likely result from pollution related to fracking, especially harming those innocent families living near wells, suffering from exposure to not just one pollutant, but from the cumulative effect of several toxins.  (More about this study later in the article.)

Why did these papers come to me?  The person who originally printed them off is an MD.  This physician is afraid of job loss if they speak out.  The MD gave the material to a friend asking how they can get it to out others, then that person gave it to another friend asking how they could help, and the information found its way to me.

Angry: when and how did this industry become so powerful that people I always considered powerful (physicians) are afraid to speak out in a country where we are guaranteed freedom of speech?  Sad: that this country no longer represents freedom to many of us. Glad: this physician is continuing to reach out in any way possible, as are many other healthcare providers, to get information out to us.  Proud:  That Coloradans Against Fracking is working at that grassroots level of person-to-person contact, and even very powerful people and groups can’t stop us!

Now, back to the information this physician wants you to know. In December, 2013, a peer-reviewed study of water and soil samples taken from Garfield County, Colorado drilling sites found anti-estrogenic, and anti-androgenic compounds at higher levels than those found at non-drilling sites both in Colorado and Missouri.   The article goes on to cite the known health consequences of exposure to these chemicals: “respiratory, gastrointestinal, dermatologic, neurologic, immunologic, endocrine, reproductive, and other negative health outcomes in humans, pets, livestock, and wildlife species.”  On one of the sites tested, the rancher had to move cattle operations from the area because the animals no longer produced live offspring.

Then in June 2014, the Endocrine Society put out a press release with the title: Hormone-disrupting activity of fracking chemicals worse than initially found.   “Many chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, can disrupt not only the human body’s reproductive hormones but also the glucocorticoid and thyroid hormone receptors, which are necessary to maintain good health, a new study finds.”

I realize that some of these words and concepts may be difficult if you aren’t familiar with medical terminology and studies. In a nutshell: these chemicals can interfere with every body system and these chemicals were found in soil and water in Garfield County, including the Colorado River. These toxins can cause cancers, birth defects, neurological disorders, and metabolic issues.  Remember, the oil and gas industry is exempt from key provisions of the federal Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and other laws that Americans depend on for their health and safety.

It is important to realize that other people in the health care field are speaking out.  The Concerned Health Professionals of New York released an excellent compendium of all the research last year, (and it became a key factor in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to ban fracking in New York).  One statement from the accompanying review of the studies haunts me: ““This is a significant public health risk,” said lead author David O. Carpenter, MD, “Cancer has a long latency, so you’re not seeing an elevation in cancer in these communities. But five, 10, 15 years from now, elevation in cancer is almost certain to happen.””  I urge you to read at least the executive summary of this paper.

There are also local people speaking out where ever they can to say, “Enough! Stop poisoning us!” One such person is Benita from Colorado’s Western Slope, who has spoken out bravely at many venues.  An example of her message from 2011 is at this link. We are saying, “Please don’t allow this. Our children and grandchildren deserve better.”  Please join Coloradans Against Fracking in getting this important message out.  Reach out to us here  if you want more information.



Would You Dump Your Trash In A Neighbor’s Yard? Produced Water Headed to Nebraska

2.2 Billion. That is an estimated 2,200,000,000 gallons of waste water or “produced water” coming out of Colorado fracking wells in 2012 alone, as reported by Environment America. We know that the number of wells increased by about 10% to 53,288 in January of 2015, so the number is probably about 2.6 billion gallons of toxic water that must be disposed of this year. Continue reading