California’s Fracking Fluids: The Chemical Recipe

Environmental Working Group (EWG)

The fluids used in hydraulic fracturing of oil wells in California contain dozens of chemicals that are hazardous to human health, including substances linked to cancer, reproductive harm and hormone disruption, an EWG analysis of state data shows.

Under a 2013 California law (SB 4) requiring disclosure of all chemicals used to boost production from oil wells by fracking or similar methods, drilling companies reported using 197 unique chemicals in 691 oil wells from December 2013 through February 2015. The fracking fluids typically contained two dozen or more different chemicals. EWG’s analysis1 found that they included:

  • 15 listed under California’s Proposition 65 as known causes of cancer or reproductive harm
  • 25 likely to contain impurities of Proposition 65-listed chemicals
  • 5 that the European Union has associated with an increased risk of cancer
  • 6 associated with reproductive harm
  • 3 linked to clear evidence of hormone disruption
  • 12 listed under the federal Clean Air Act as Hazardous Air Pollutants known to cause cancer or other harm
  • 93 associated with harm to aquatic life.

California’s fracking disclosure law is the most comprehensive in the nation. The data in the reports submitted to the state’s oil and gas regulatory agency provide the most detailed accounting available of the chemical makeup of fracking fluids, at least for one state…


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