(NaturalNews) The quest to unearth new sources of oil and natural gas in Southern California's dense urban core has resulted in the spreading of more than 40 different toxic chemicals near hospitals, residential areas and schools.
Data collected by the South Coast Air Quality Management District has revealed that a process known as "acidization," which involves injecting chemicals and other materials into the ground to create passageways for oil and gas to escape, is generating heavy pollution in many sensitive areas.
Southern California Public Radio reports that the work of four different local environmental groups brought the pollution problem to light. They found that the top chemicals being used for this energy pursuit include crystalline silica, methanol, hydrofluoric acid and formaldehyde.
"One of the interesting things about something like methanol is you can see immediate harms like burning of the eyes or stomach problems," stated Angela Johnson Meszaros, general counsel for the Physicians for Social Responsibility of Los Angeles, one of the groups that compiled the data, to 89.3 KPCC.
"You can also see long term problems like problems with the nervous system, headaches and the like. And you can also see reproductive harm and harm in the next generation."
Fracking compounds can cause lung damage, cancer
Though it is a naturally occurring substance, crystalline silica is also problematic when inhaled. The cement additive, which is used for making so-called "frac sand," holds underground cracks open so that oil and gas can be transferred into wells.
But the dust can cause a condition known as "silicosis," which the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says can lead to bronchitis, scleroderma, tuberculosis and possible renal disease. Silicosis is also linked to causing lung cancer.
Like its name implies, hydrofluoric acid is a fluoride-based chemical compound that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says can be used as a chemical terrorism agent. The compound absorbs easily through the skin and, when inhaled, can cause inflammation and swelling in the lungs, as well as fluid accumulation.
And formaldehyde, a common adjuvant used in vaccines, is also highly toxic. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists the pungent-smelling gas as a potential trigger of both asthma and cancer, yet fracking companies routinely pump it into the ground to release oil and gas from hard-to-reach areas.
Gas, oil companies dumped 45 million pounds of chemicals in Los Angeles just last year
Though energy companies have been drilling for oil and gas throughout Southern California for nearly a century, it is only since 2013 that the City of Los Angeles, at least, has required that they disclose the types of chemicals they use. And according to the latest data, some 45 million pounds of them were used just last year.
"Residents, including many vulnerable members of our society like elders, the ill, children and even infants, who are exposed to the daily impacts of oil drilling as well as other forms of industrial pollution, rely on public health and environmental agencies to not only require that this information be made public, but to also monitor the emissions coming from these reported events," said Yana Garcia, a staff attorney and environmental justice advocate with Communities for a Better Environment.