Does Fracking increase radon gas levels?

Does fracking increase radon gas levels?

The unequivocal answer to that question is sad, yes, fracking has shown a corollary to a significant increase in radon gas levels where fracking operations have been installed.  John Hopkins University did research on the Pennsylvania fracking fields which are in the Marcellus shale formations, and homes that utilize natural gas or are near the fields are testing as high as 250 times the acceptable federal levels of radon gas present, i.e. radioactive particle fallout, in the homes. While the science versus oil communities are still arguing if there is a real connection, the data shows that in areas where fracking has become big business, radon gas levels have significantly increased. It is hardly a coincidence since those fields punch into shale fields well known for radioactivity levels. 

 Fracking fields are generally oil operations that remove crude oil through the pressurization of shale underground, pushing the crude oil out of the layered structure of the stone it has been residing in for millions of years. Shale is a sedimentary stone created by pressure on layers of organic materials and mud and contains many elements and minerals, including those that carry some radioactive charge. When the shale is pressurized, not just crude oil is forced out, so are the gases that occur in the spaces of the stone and other compounds. Gases that are pushed out tend to be lighter and want to rise to the surface once freed and will take the path of least resistance, i.e. places where the ground is disturbed, rock is fragmented and creates a sieve of sorts, and multiple test holes and plugs have been drilled. Any things that create less impediment for the gas allows the gas to move to the surface faster and to congregate where there is no significant airflow to push it up and mix it into the atmosphere.

 Areas around fracking fields are having challenges with a number of byproducts ranging from groundwater being contaminated and methane gas blow and burn-offs (sometimes from people’s faucets) to significantly increased levels of radon gas in their homes and businesses. One of the biggest issues is natural gas, a byproduct of the fracking fields and also naturally occurring and utilized for home heating and cooking is showing up with raised levels of radon. So far Pennsylvania is not the only state that has shown an increase. Significant raises have been seen in Ohio and recent studies in Colorado show increases as well. The John Hopkins study also showed that aerial radon gas concentrations increased up to five times the previous levels after fracking operations went into operation, and methane and carbon dioxide showed a three-fold increase.

 Industry spokespersons like to use the fact that the areas undergoing fracking often have a lower population density, not like they were exposing people to carcinogenic materials compared to a large metropolitan area. That type of false reasoning begs the question of responsibility and being responsible for collateral damage caused by the process. 

 Anyone living in an area where fracking is occurring already knows that earth tremors are a very real possibility. You should be having your home tested and mitigation is done for radon gas seeping into your quiet air spaces as well in order to keep your family safer from lung cancer, the long term result from radon gas exposure.