Now that North Carolina is poised to start hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in order to drill for natural gas, we are concerned about the possible health effects on workers in the gas industry. Researchers for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recently finished a study of workers at six oil and gas sites in Colorado and Wyoming. Their research showed that most of the workers at these sites were exposed to benzene levels above the safe limit recommended by the agency. The story can be found here.
This is disturbing since the US Department of Health and Human Services has determined that benzene causes cancer in humans. Long – term exposure to benzene is associated with harmful effects on the bone marrow, leading to anemia. Benzene exposure can also affect the immune system. More information on the properties of benzene can be found in this fact sheet.
In June, North Carolina passed The Energy Naturalization Act, which cleared the way for fracking permits to be issued in the state. The permits could be issued as early as the spring of 2015, The problem is that while in other states, gas drilling companies are required to reveal the toxic chemicals that may be released into the air, soil and water by fracking, in North Carolina this information is considered a trade secret by law. Information can only be revealed to first responders in an emergency.