Unpacking health hazards in fracking's chemical cocktail


Meet the Master Well Formula -- the chemical cocktail that Encana Corp. will use to hydraulically fracture every natural gas well it drills in Wyoming's Jonah Field. Drillers mix 11,800 gallons of this solution with over a million gallons of water and a heavy dose of sand, inject it underground to release gas deposits, and collect the fuel as it spouts to the surface. Thirty to 70 percent of the solution re-emerges with "produced" water and is trucked off to evaporation pits. The rest lingers underground.

Chemical lists like this one weren't publicly available until September 2010, when Wyoming adopted an unprecedented rule requiring companies to publicly disclose them amid rising concern about fracking's potential health effects. But a loophole in the law still allows companies to hide recipes by applying for "trade secret status" -- something the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has granted for about 70 fracking products. The public may know more than before, but not quite enough to understand the full range of hazards.

Jonathan Day
Jonathan Day Subscriber
Feb 24, 2011 06:48 AM
I saw this table in the print version of HCN and it caught my attention. It shows table salt as being carcinogenic, yet not petroleum distillates (which makes up a large portion of the fluid according to the chart). Is this correct?
Sierra Crane-Murdoch
Sierra Crane-Murdoch Subscriber
Feb 24, 2011 11:02 AM
Hi Jonathan and other readers,

Please note that the health effects column labeled "carcinogen" has been incorrectly named. Instead, this column should read, "cancer promoter or carcinogen." Sodium chloride, at certain doses, is a suspected cancer promoter, but it is not an initiator of cancer like some of the other substances listed under this category. We'll be posting a clarification in the next issue.

If you're interested in seeing the data source for this snapshot, The Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX) has now made a list of over 600 fracking chemicals and their associated health effects available on their website: http://www.endocrinedisruption.com/chemicals.multistate.php The health effects of each chemical were identified using Material Safety Data Sheets and peer-reviewed literature. Thanks for pointing out your confusion, and let me know if you have any more questions.

Babs Davis
Babs Davis
Mar 12, 2011 11:43 AM
That's not all. It's great that the state of Wyoming has made this a requirement of disclosure, however the chemical cocktail is proprietary, so that EACH company hydrofracking uses DIFFERENT chemicals. Not only that, but Josh Fox's "Gasland" revealed 596 chemicals - so the list above is incomplete. It's a good attempt by Wyoming, and I while I applaud their efforts since the federal government and their agencies i.e. EPA and others have done nothing. This is but one article, but there is a whole site of updates and info http://www.squidoo.com/hydrofracking-and-updates
Alysha  Parker
Alysha Parker
May 06, 2011 10:02 AM
Im currently researching the effects of fracking fluid on the environment, can any want suggest any more resources to locate the chemical compositions for different companies?
August L-R
August L-R
Mar 19, 2014 07:00 PM
To anyone who's interested in a more extensive list of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, see this document: