Environmentalists demand explanations for “secret” fracking chemicals in Ohio

“People need to know. People have a right to know, and first responders have a right to know if they might be exposed to those types of chemicals.”


A new report details troubling information on so-called “secret” fracking chemicals that companies aren’t legally responsible to disclose to the public.

Although 29 states require some public disclosure of fracking chemical, drilling and fracking companies have been able to utilize loopholes and exceptions that allow them to without chemical identities as “trade secrets.”

New research from the Partnership for Policy Integrity reveals that the oil and gas industry injected potentially toxic chemicals nearly 11,000 times into over 1,4000 fracking wells between the years of 2013 and 2018.

“We looked at Ohio’s records and found trade-secret chemicals being used extensively in eastern Ohio in oil and natural gas wells, which could be some of the same trade-secret chemicals that the (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) has health concerns about. We can’t say that definitively because the identities are secret,” said Dusty Horwitt, author of the report.

Horwitt says that many of the secret chemicals have been found to have health risks by the EPA and are a danger to the public via multiple pathways of exposure such as “leaks, spills, air emissions, the migration of underground fluids from injection wells where fracking wastewater is disposed, or the migration of oil and gas at production wells.”

“It’s entirely possible that some of these chemicals could have effects that EPA identified like neurotoxicity, developmental toxicity, lung toxicity, kidney toxicity and liver toxicity,” Horwitt said. “People need to know. People have a right to know, and first responders have a right to know if they might be exposed to those types of chemicals.”

First responders in the case of spills also expressed their concern. “We depend upon being able to quantify and qualify the product that we’re dealing with so we know how to mitigate it,” said Silverio Caggiano, battalion chief at Youngstown Fire Department. “If I don’t know what it is, I can’t identify its physical properties and how I’m going to take care of it, or how to protect people.”

Although first responders can request the identity of trade secret chemicals, they must do so via written statements. Usually by the time their request is approved and responded to it is already too late.

Horwitt suggested that companies release their chemical identities to the public in a random list so that competitors will not be able to steal their formulas but the public can be aware of the potential health effects.

Partnership for Policy Integrity, along with other environmental organizations, requested records on screening of the chemicals from the EPA. After reviewing the thousands of records, the groups found that of the 153 chemicals recorded, 109 of them had health concerns. Of those 109, the EPA has signed off on 62 for use in oil and gas wells. Oil and gas companies have successfully concealed from the public the names of 41 of these chemicals.


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Ruth Milka started as an intern for NationofChange in 2015. Known for her thoughtful and thorough approach, Ruth is committed to shedding light on the intersection of environmental issues and their impact on human communities. Her reporting consistently highlights the urgency of environmental challenges while emphasizing the human stories at the heart of these issues. Ruth’s work is driven by a passion for truth and a dedication to informing the public about critical global matters concerning the environment and human rights.