How Radioactive Are You?

high radiationOne of the problems with fracking in the Marcellus and Utica Shales is that these shales are more radioactive than ones in other parts of the country. An interesting fact is that one way geologists find oil bearing shale in this region of the northeast is by testing for radioactivity.

In particular, these shales contain radon – as many people who live here are aware since numerous residents in this region must ventilate their homes to lower radon levels to mitigate potential cancers, particularly lung cancer.

According to an August 2012 EPA publication “Oil and Gas Wastes” the process of gas drilling concentrates the natural radiation in the ground through the scaling in the pipes and in the waste produced and on the equipment used. It also concentrates around burn pits and at the bottom of brine ponds. Not to mention being carried home on workers clothing to their homes.

The EPA says not to worry because we are all exposed to radiation that occurs naturally in the environment and in medical procedures. The American Nuclear Society provides a handy interactive that allows you to calculate your yearly radiation exposure. Give it a try. You will probably be surprised how much radiation you are exposed to.

So what effect will adding gas drilling to your exposure do? How will it affect your children? What if you are pregnant? – radiation exposure is linked to birth defects too.

Comparing radiation figures put out by the EPA and others is made difficult by the fact that many different units are in use. The EPA uses pCi/g which is how much is emitted. Medicine uses the rem and sievert which is how much a body absorbs. Oh, so confusing to the layperson. So rather than getting into the complex mathematics here, let’s just assume that low levels of radiation are produced during fracking – because the exact amount is irrelevant. Yes, irrelevant!

According the American Cancer Society: “…most scientists and regulatory agencies agree that even small doses of ionizing radiation increase cancer risk, although by a very small amount. In general, the risk of cancer from radiation exposure increases as the dose of radiation increases. Likewise, the lower the exposure is, the smaller the increase in risk. But there is no threshold below which ionizing radiation is thought to be totally safe.”

So if we already live in a cancer-birth-defect causing radiation soup why we would want to increase our exposure to radiation from the fracking process? Especially when radon, unlike other radioactives, binds with water. Read more – Even the gas being delivered to your home, if it comes from these radon-laced shales will be radioactive – so it doesn’t matter how close gas drilling is to where you live. Don’t say – well, I live in New York City so fracking in Broome County won’t affect me. It will.

So in the interest of lowering cancer rates and birth defects and protecting our children’s future how about we stop this crazy Global Warming pursuit for fossil fuels and put our best brains to work on alternative renewable energy? Join with us and say: No Fracking in New York!

More on Radiation Exposure and Fracking:

How do you feel about your exposure to radiation in the fracking process? Let us know.


About joan koster

Joan Koster writes historical fiction about forgotten women. She is currently working on a novel about abolition and woman's rights during the Civil War.
This entry was posted in Broome County, Ecology, Environment, Fracking, Hydrofracturing, New York, Pollution, Radiation, science, Water and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.