Characterizing Toxicity and Risks of Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid Additives

Oral Presentation

Prepared by A. Pawlisz
GHD, 1755 Wittington Place, Suite 500, Dallas, TX, 75234, United States

Contact Information:; 972-679-7872


The use of hydraulic fracturing (i.e., fracking) to extract gas and oil from tight shale formations has undergone considerable expansion in the US and worldwide. Hydraulic fracturing consists of injecting a mixture of water, friction reducers, proppants, biocides, surfactants, thickeners, scale inhibitors, corrosion inhibitors, and acids to promote the flow of hydrocarbons otherwise bound in impermeable matrices. The rapid growth in unconventional drilling has led to community, regulator, and health practitioner concerns over the potential effects associated with impacts on groundwater, blowouts, spills, and reduction in air quality. Many of the disclosed ingredients are cited as harmless. However, there are certain chemical groups, such as antimicrobials, that have specific (by design) adverse biological activity. Moreover, some popular media articles suggest that hydraulic fracturing chemicals may have carcinogenic, mutagenic, endocrine disrupting, and organ toxicity characteristics. This presentation provides an overview of the identity, toxicity, and the potential for adverse health effects of the hydraulic fluid additives that may be used in commercial formulations. Popular media claims are discussed in context of the availability of supporting information from peer-reviewed and scientific data. The information on hydraulic fluid chemical identity, application rate, and toxicity is used to estimate hypothetical exposure risks under accidental release scenarios.