A major fracking firm has gone on the offensive, attacking claims by a UK campaign group that there are potentially serious occupational and environmental risks associated with the controversial process.
Cuadrilla hit out after a leaflet from the campaign group Friends of the Earth (FoE) highlighted warnings, many made by official US government agencies, about the dangers posed by the toxic chemicals and crystalline silica used in large volumes in fracking operations.
Francis Egan, Cuadrilla’s chief executive, said the FoE claims about chemical risks were “irresponsible and shameful”. The firm said it was referring the “wilfully misleading” leaflet to the Charity Commission, Advertising Standards Authority and the Fundraising Standards Board.
The company picked out FoE references to crystalline silica and polyacrylamide for particular attention. FoE had identified official cancer and lung disease warnings linked to respirable crystalline silica exposure in fracking workers in the US. It noted polyacrylamide, also used in fracking operations, has been identified by authorities as a potential source of groundwater contamination with acrylamide, a probable carcinogen.
A Cuadrilla spokesperson said: “As Friends of the Earth is well aware, the UK Environment Agency does not permit the use of ‘a toxic cocktail of chemicals’ in fracking fluid for use in the UK and, in fact, only permits fracking fluid that it has assessed and tested as non-hazardous to groundwater.”
FoE noted there had been a spate of recent stories “that seem designed to undermine the credibility of those campaigning to stop fracking. It’s no surprise to see this happening, as the anti-fracking movement really has been getting in the way of government and industry plans.” FoE added the “risk to the health and safety of workers should be properly investigated, not made a mockery of.”
The stories critical of FoE’s approach, included articles in The Times and on the BBC website citing Cuadrilla, prompted a group of top academics to back publicly FoE’s stance on the dangers posed by fracking.
A letter signed by occupational and environmental health specialists from the UK, US, Italy and Australia, notes: “It would be folly not to learn from the US experience of fracking. The refrain in the UK that, if properly regulated, fracking can be performed with no significant risk to health assumes that the risks have been properly assessed and the regulatory system is robust. Neither is true.”
It warns: “Fracking without question involves exposure to substances linked to cancer, asthma and other health impacts. It is not scaremongering to say so.”