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Exponent Scientist to Speak on Health Risk Assessment at Upcoming Hydraulic Fracturing Workshop


July 5,2012

Dr. John Schell, Principal Scientist in Exponent's Center for Toxicology and Mechanistic Biology based in Houston, will be presenting at the upcoming EUCI conference "Engineering and Technology Developments in Hydraulic Fracturing" to be held July 30-31st in Denver, Colorado.

The title of Dr. Schell's presentation is "Health Risks from Fracturing Fluids: Are They Real?"


Recently, several scientific publications and the press have cited concerns over contamination of drinking water supply aquifers and surface waters from hydraulic fracturing operations and flowback water. Writers have asserted that hydraulic fracturing fluids contain “carcinogens, mutagens, and endocrine disruptors” and pose so large a risk that hydraulic fracturing should be stopped. While some of the chemicals by themselves and in sufficiently high concentrations can rightly be labeled as hazardous, that is a simplistic view and a result of the misuse of hazard classification. Risk is a function of both the inherent toxicity of the compound (i.e., hazard identification) and the amount that an individual contacts and internalizes (i.e., the “dose”). As stated by Paracelsus circa 1530: “Solely the dose separates a remedy from a poison.” Certainly, fracturing fluids are not remedies, but based on the low concentrations that exist when properly used in the field, nor are they poisons.

Detailed information on the actual concentrations used in the field is still emerging, but a semiquantitative analysis of potential risks can be performed using conditions encountered at a typical hydraulic fracturing operation along with standard EPA risk assessment methodologies, including published toxicity factors and exposure models. The results of the risk assessment place these risks and hazards into context with other health and environmental risks from chemical uses.

More information on the seminar, as well as registration information, can be found here.