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Big Berkey Water Filters

  • Black Berkeys Receive New Testing Results

    We are proud to announce brand new black berkey testing results that show the Berkey removes Chloramines, Pharmaceuticals, BPA, and much more from your water. This highly anticipated round of testing was just completed, and can be found here.

    Berkey Lineup Photo

    Black Berkey Testing Highlights:

    1) Bisphenol-A - Removed to greater than 99.9%. Many customers had the desire to pour their bottled water into their berkey, and had wondered if the system would remove this endocrine disruptor.

    2) Chloramines - Removed to greater than 99.9%. With many water municipalities switching to chloramine disinfection instead of chlorine, there was a growing chorus of existing and potential Berkey customers wanting the answer to this question.

    3) Pharmaceuticals - Removed to greater than 99.5%. This has been a hot button also. Many studies and articles have come out over the past 5 years showing how these pharmaceuticals are washing down our toilets and not being removed from our water supply by the local municipal filtration plant. The filters were tested for 17 different types of pharmaceuticals and they were all removed. No additional types of pharmaceuticals were available for testing at this lab, however the results should be similar for others.

    4) Petroleum Contaminants - Removed to greater than 99.9%. With the unfortunately too common event of oil spills and petroleum contamination of waterways and water sources, this has been on the mind of customers for some time, especially since the gulf oil spill.  The black berkeys would protect them from these contaminants.

    5) Methylcycohexane-methane - Removed to greater than 99.9%. This was the contaminant that was involved in the March 2014 West Virginia oil spill.

    6) Pesticides - Removed to greater than 99.9%. These had already been tested for before, however more pesticides were included in this round of testing.

    7) Heavy Metals - Removed to greater than 99.1%. These had already been tested for before, however a couple more heavy metals were included in this round of testing.

    8) Coliform and e-Coli - Removed to greater than 99.9%. These had already been tested for before and shown to be removed to over 99.9999%.  This could be considered as confirmation testing.

    Some additional testing notes:

    NMCL set the limit of 99.9% or Log 3 reduction with the lab before testing began. Each Log level (percent) reduction costs significantly more for testing and is typically not needed.  It boils down to a function of cost vs what levels they believed would be acceptable to customers & dealers. Log 3 (99.9%) reduction is significant and the testing costs are reasonable; that's why they settled on this level.

    You will notice in the test results that most all of the contaminates measured after running through the Black Berkey element, show "less than" as the measured contaminate level left in the water. This means that the actual reduction levels are "greater than" 99.9% - exceeding the target reduction level tested for.

  • Canine Contaminants in our Water: How big a problem is it?

    America is home to many dog lovers, and although they adore their dogs, they often don't love to clean up behind them quite as much. This poses a problem, as dog feces that is not disposed of correctly can get washed into our freshwater systems or leach through soils and contaminate groundwater sources. Dog waste often contains bacteria, some of which are antibiotic-resistant, that can cause people to become ill. Scientists have recently developed a genetic test that will ascertain just how much of the fecal contamination present in our waterways originates from our canine friends.


    According to an article that was recently published in the American Chemical Society's journal, Environment Science & Technology, our freshwater systems are vulnerable to contamination from many fecal sources, including leaking sewage systems; agricultural sources, such as waste from livestock and manure added to crops to enrich growth; and wildlife droppings. While these sources all contribute an unsavory source of contamination, dog feces poses a particular concern, as it may harbor antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria such as E. coli, as well as parasites that pose a public health risk. Considering that the US is home to around 70 million pet dogs, the threat is substantial.

    Until now, scientists have had limited resources available to determine how much of the pathogens present in freshwater and coastal systems actually originates from domesticated dogs.

    "Current methods look for certain genes from gut bacteria that end up in dog feces", explains Orin Shanks, a co-author of the paper. "However, this is not foolproof — the microbiota of humans and the canine pets they live with often overlap, making the analysis complicated."

    To work around this, the research team set about creating a test that would be more specific and robust, and which would be able to detect fecal contamination originating from canines.

    By identifying 11 genetic markers that were present in most of the canine samples but absent in the human samples, the scientists developed a genetic technique that is able to test water specifically for the presence of canine fecal contaminants. In order to ascertain whether their genetic technique would be viable for monitoring water quality in a real-world situation, they tested water samples that originated from storm water collected from a rain-garden adjacent to an area that is frequented by dog-lovers walking their canine companions. Using this method the scientists successfully detected the same canine markers they identified in the lab as evidence for canine fecal contamination.

    Canine and other sources of fecal contamination in water can contain pathogens that can pose a health risk to you and your family. By filtering your drinking water with a good quality water filter you can successfully remove parasites such as E. coli that could cause you and your loved-ones harm.

    Journal Reference:

    Hyatt C. Green, Karen M. White, Cathy A. Kelty, and Orin C. Shanks. Development of Rapid Canine Fecal Source Identification PCR-Based Assays. Environ. Sci. Technol., 2014, 48 (19), pp 11453–11461. DOI: 10.1021/es502637b

  • 12 Reasons Why We Need to End Water Fluoridation

    With more and more countries choosing not to fluoridate their water, we have to ask why cities across the US still routinely add fluoride to their drinking water supplies. Dr Paul Connett, who is the director of the Fluoride Action Network, and co-author of The Case Against Fluoride, has put together a comprehensive argument supporting the need for citizens who care for their health to challenge this.



    1.  Fluoride has no nutritional value - the human body does not require fluoride to meet any of its dietary needs.

    2.  Fluoride levels in breast milk is very low. Babies fed with formula made with tap water receive as much as 175-250 times as much fluoride than breast-fed babies.

    3.  Children in countries who fluoridate their water are being over-dosed with fluoride; there is a high incidence of dental fluorosis -- in the US, 41% of children between the age of 12-15 have been diagnosed with dental fluorosis.

    4.  Fluoride is a known toxin -- even low levels of exposure can pose health risks.

    5.  When drinking water is treated with fluoride authorities cannot control the dosage people receive -- everyone who drinks the water is exposed, no matter what their age or weight may be, and regardless of their health status or nutritional needs.

    6.  Adding fluoride to public drinking water equates to forced medication, and violates a basic human right as no consent has been given by each and every individual affected.

    7.  Fluoride that is ingested with drinking water builds up in the calcified tissue within the body and can cause calcium poisoning over time. Victims typically experience symptoms very similar to arthritis, and bones may also become brittle making them prone to fracturing more readily.

    8.  Many countries have opted not to fluoridate their drinking water, and according to WHO, the incidence of tooth decay in children is dropping at the same rate or faster in countries that don't add fluoride to their water compared to countries that do.

    9.  There have never been any randomized control trials conducted that effectively demonstrate that ingesting fluoride will reduce the likelihood of tooth decay.

    10.  There is very little evidence to support the notion that orally ingesting fluoride will prevent dental cavities, and the little evidence there is, is very weak.

    11.  Oral health practitioners around the world agree that the benefits fluoride offers in terms of dental health is achieved through topical application as apposed to systemic absorption of fluoride.

    12.  Fluoridation of drinking water was initiated to combat a disease (dental cavities), yet fluoride has never been officially approved as a drug by the US Food and Drug Administration, who still have it classified as an "unapproved drug".

  • Water Fluoridation: Why is the US still putting its Citizens at Risk?

    Water fluoridation continues to be a contentious health issue, with many disputing the notion that fluoride provides oral health benefits when it is ingested and suggesting that the opposite is true. In fact, due to health, ethical and legal implications, many countries around the world have taken steps to restrict the use of industrialized fluoride, and some have even gone so far as to ban its use completely.

    People who live in countries that still routinely add fluoride to their water have taken fight to the local levels.  Many of these folks have also taken steps to remove this additive from their drinking water with a fluoride water filter to protect their family.


    The website,, provides an insight into the health issues associated with water fluoridation and fluoride ingestion, and also provides a list of countries that have rejected or banned fluoride -- one of these countries is China, which has the highest population in the world. According to, only 5% of the world's population fluoridates its water, of which 50% of this statistic is made up of people living in the USA. also points out that 99% of countries in western Europe have rejected or banned water fluoridation, and many of these countries have ceased adding fluoride to their drinking water. Some cities in Canada and the US have started to follow suit, albeit rather slowly.

    The websites and both provide further information on the countries that have rejected or banned water fluoridation, which include: Austria (does not add 'toxic fluorides'), Belgium (believes people who wish to take fluoride can do so themselves), Denmark, Finland (suggests there are healthier options to prevent tooth cavities), Germany, Hungary, Israel, Japan (suggests calcium fluoride rather than sodium fluoride is beneficial, but still requires this to be regulated), Norway, Sweden, The Netherlands, as well as certain countries in Africa.

    According to information obtained from the Fluoride Action Network and, only a handful of European countries still fluoridate their drinking water -- these include: Ireland (73%), the United Kingdom (11%), Spain (11%), Serbia (3%) and Poland (1%).

    Fluoridation of drinking water has been associated with several health issues, including dental fluorosis, an increased risk of cancer, and a reduced IQ in children. Yet many water utilities across the USA still routinely add this contaminant to their drinking water supplies. This contaminated water is then piped to your home, where you and your family are unwittingly exposed to this potentially harmful pollutant. If your water utility routinely adds fluoride to your drinking water, we recommend that you take measures in your own hands to protect your family's health by investing in a good quality drinking water filter that is able to remove this potentially harmful contaminant. By doing so, you will be empowered to have the final say in what you and your family are exposed to via your drinking water.

    As many of our readers are already well aware, the Berkey water filter systems filter out a wide range of drinking water contaminants, with the ability to be fitted with additional PF-2 fluoride filters to remove the fluoride.

  • Hepatitis A: What You Need to Know

    Hepatitis A is the milder form of hepatitis, which causes inflammation of the liver. The infection is caused by a virus, and is transmitted through the ingestion of contaminated food and beverages.  Water is a common transmission method, and the infection is often seen in places with poor sanitation, such as in developing countries. Regions with the highest rates of hepatitis A include northern and southern Asia, Africa, southern and eastern Europe, and some parts of South America.

    Most people in the US who become infected with hepatitis A, contracted the virus after traveling to a country where the disease is common. Transmission occurs via the stool-to-mouth route, or when a person ingests food or beverages contaminated by human feces carrying the hepatitis A virus (HAV).


    Infection with hepatitis A, unlike infection with the other types of viral hepatitis (B and C), does not bring about chronic liver disease, and is hardly ever a fatal condition. Its symptoms, however, can be debilitating and include: loss of appetite, malaise, fever, nausea, abdominal discomfort, diarrhoea, dark-colored urine, and/or jaundice. Only 10% of children develop jaundice, and those younger than six years often do not exhibit symptoms. More severe symptoms are often experienced by older children and adults; in adults -- at least 70% develop jaundice. Recovery may take several weeks or months, but most do not develop complications.

    In places where hepatitis A outbreaks are common, children are the most at risk of acquiring an HAV infection. Those who have not been infected before, or have not been vaccinated, including travellers to regions where HAV infections occur frequently, are also at risk of contracting the disease. Blood transmission can occur when a needle used by, or on, an infected person to inject drugs is reused by, or on, an uninfected person. Transmission through sexual contact is also possible when the HAV infection is acute. The most common mode of transmission is when food or beverage contaminated with an infected person's faeces is ingested by an uninfected person. In places where water is not treated properly or is contaminated by sewage, waterborne outbreaks are common.

    Treatment of hepatitis A mostly focuses on ensuring comfort, and adequate nutrition of the patient; those who require hospital care receive supportive therapy, including intravenous fluids and pain medications. The majority of people who get infected with HAV recover without complications, within a few weeks. Proper sanitation is also critical to prevent outbreaks. People who have already contracted HAV usually develop lifelong protection against re-infection.

    Vaccines for hepatitis A are readily available worldwide, and those who plan on traveling to high-risk countries should receive proper vaccinations beforehand. It is also advisable to only drink boiled, bottled, filtered, or chemically treated water when traveling in high-risk countries. Tap water should also be avoided when brushing teeth, as should ice cream, juices, unpasteurized milk, and ice from street vendors. Travellers should also avoid eating fruits, raw or undercooked vegetables, shellfish, and any other food that may have come into contact with contaminated water.

    Where tap water is the only water available for drinking and brushing the teeth, boiling the water is most effective way of killing pathogens. Alternatively, a traveler can buy chemical disinfectants and/or a water filter to purify tap water. When traveling in countries with a dubious water supply, we recommend that travelers filter drinking water using a good quality drinking filter such as the Travel Berkey, or a light-weight portable alternative, such as the Go Berkey Kit, which is perfect for travelers. Both these water filters will remove disease causing pathogens, as well as many other types of contaminants that may be lurking in the water and could damage your health.

  • Turbidity can Signify the Presence of Harmful Water Contaminants

    Have you ever wondered why at times the water flowing from your faucet looks so cloudy; and when this happens, are you concerned that it may pose a health risk? The level of cloudiness in drinking water is referred to as turbidity, which in essence is the measurement of relative clarity of water. Water contains suspended particulate matter, such as silt, clay and other particles, which refract light. When there are high levels of particulate matter suspended in the water, light can no longer penetrate into the water, and consequently it appears cloudy.

    How can Turbidity Affect Health?

    Turbidity affects the aesthetic quality of water, and as it does not directly impose any health risks, it is only considered a secondary water contaminant. However, cloudy water could indicate the possibility that other pollutants, such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia which do pose a health risk, are present. Turbidity is caused by particles that are held in suspension in water. These particles serve as both a source of food and shelter for microbes. Water that is very turbid can reduce the effect of chemical disinfection treatments used to kill pathogens that may be present in the water. Therefore, it is recommended that if water is to be disinfected effectively, the levels of turbidity should be reduced before treatment.


    Outbreaks of disease in the past have been attributed to sporadic incidents of high turbidity in water released from water treatment plants. While this association is not conclusive, based on the fact that when the water is turbid, micro-organisms are likely to be present in the water, and some of these micro-organisms can cause health problems, it is highly recommended that the necessary steps are taken to reduce turbidity in drinking water.

    Besides causing health problems, turbidity can also cause other problems in our homes, and in our environment. For instance, turbidity that is caused by inorganic materials can clog pipes, while turbidity stemming from organic materials can cause stains on clothes and other household objects.

    How Turbidity is Measured

    There are different devices that are used to measure turbidity, such as a transparency tube; a secchi disk, which is used to measure turbidity in deeper water; or a turbidity meter, which is an electronic device that is used to measure the clarity of the water. When measuring turbidity, nephelolometric turbidity units are used - as turbidity increases, the NTU also increases. While 1 NTU is the recommended standard turbidity level for drinking water, turbidity will only really be noticeable in water at levels greater than 5 NTU.

    Water Treatment Methods to Improve Water Clarity

    A good quality drinking water filter, such as the Big Berkey fitted with Black Berkey filter cartridges, can remove these suspended solids from your drinking water, producing clear appetizing water for you to drink. The Berkey water filter will not only improve the clarity of the water, but will also remove any pathogens that could be lurking alongside these sediments, to ensure that you and your loved ones suffer no ill side effects should the water be contaminated with other more harmful pollutants.

  • Recycling Fracking Fluids Will Reduce Water Use and Limit Contamination Risks Experts Say

    After conducting a thorough analysis of fracking water produced by three shale gas reservoirs, scientists from Rice University recommend that environmentally-friendly measures are initiated for treating and reusing the wastewater produced.

    The scientists advocate that instead of disposing of fracking wastewater produced during fracking operations, this water should be recycled using advanced treatment methods, for reuse in the fracking process. According to Andrew Barron, who led the study which was recently published in the scientific journal, Environmental Science: Processes and Impacts, this would not only reduce the risk of accidental spillage, and thus reduce the risk of contaminating underground aquifers and local drinking water resources, but would also save millions of gallons of water every year.


    Even though the Texas fracking industry only uses around 1.5% of the volume of water used by farmers and municipalities, this still equates to around 8.5 million gallons spread between the two main shale formations in Texas, which according to Barron, places considerable pressure on communities living nearby.

    The researchers initially analyzed fracking fluids that were pumped through shale formations in New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Texas. Barron together with lead author, Samuel Maguire-Boyle, discovered that the fluids produced by fracking (both gas-produced water and shale oil) do not contain significant amounts of potentially hazardous polyaromatic hydrocarbons, but do contain small concentrations of other chemical compounds, which they believe the fracking industry should phase out by developing non-chemical alternatives for treating fracking fluids and the wastewater produced.

    Currently, wastewater from fracking fluids pumped into a gas well is either pumped out to a closed fluid-capture system or it is pumped back underground for disposal. According to Barron, neither of these options offers an effective long-term solution.

    “Ultimately, it will be necessary to clean produced water for reuse in fracking,” he said. “In addition, there is the potential to recover the fraction of hydrocarbon in the produced water.”

    According to Barron, fracking fluids are comprised of 90% water, with 8-9% consisting of sand or some type of proppant that holds the fractures open for the oil and gas to escape, and 1-2% consisting of a variety of salts, scale inhibitors, friction reducers, gelling agents, biocides, gel breakers, and organic and inorganic acids. The organic substances may occur naturally or they may be remnants of added constituents.

    The scientist revealed that the majority of salts, minerals and organic substances contained in fracking wastewater originate from the connate fluids trapped within the pores of the underground rock, and are of little concern. However, they found that fracking wastewater also contained potentially hazardous chlorocarbons and organobromides, which likely formed as a result of interactions between large concentrations of bacteria present in the water and the chemicals or salts used in the fracking wastewater treatment process.

    According to Barron, the fracking industry often treats fracking water with hypochlorite or chlorine dioxide so that it can be recycled for reuse. However, these treatment processes can enhance the ability of bacteria to convert hydrocarbons that occur naturally into more hazardous chlorocarbons and organobromides.

    “We believe the industry needs to investigate alternative, nonchemical treatments to avoid the formation of compounds that don’t occur in nature,” said Barron.

    Journal Reference:
    Samuel J. Maguire-Boyle, Andrew R. Barron. Organic compounds in produced waters from shale gas wells. Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts, 2014; DOI: 10.1039/C4EM00376D

  • Former Navy Bases Need to Clean Up Their Act

    The initiation of a new water quality test requirement for drinking water has resulted in the closure of four major drinking-water wells, and could lead to delays in the redevelopment of the former Willow Grove Naval Air Base due to water contamination issues.

    Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) is a chemical that was routinely added to foams used for firefighting at former Naval Air bases at both Willow Grove and Warminster, both of which have been inactive for many years. Production of the chemical was phased out in the US about ten years ago, and until recently local water agencies have not been required to screen drinking water for the presence of these compounds.


    Now, local residents are concerned that their private wells may also be contaminated with PFOS, some believing that the recent surge in cancer cases in their area over the last couple of years, including leukemia, lymphoma, breast-, liver- and pancreatic cancer, can be attributed to their local water supply being contaminated with this chemical pollutant.

    The resident's fears may be well founded. Studies conducted on animals have found that exposure to PFOS can cause problems with reproduction and development, and is also associated with an increased risk of cancer.

    One resident who worked at the Warminster Navy Base in the 1950s is not surprised that the water is contaminated, as back in the day everything got disposed of underground.

    According to Karen Johnson, an EPA spokesperson, authorities have been aware of PFOS for some time, but until recently have not had the necessary lab equipment to test for the compound.

    In Warminster, recent tests have revealed that PFOS levels are three times higher than the recommended threshold in one drinking-water well, which was shut down together with a nearby well where levels just below the recommended threshold were recorded. In Horsham, two wells were shut down in August after tests revealed PFOS levels three times higher than the safety threshold at one well, and five times higher at another. The affected towns now need to import drinking-water from nearby towns to meet their needs.
    According to Tina O'Rourke, a representative of the Horsham water authority, these two wells supplied roughly 26% of the town's water, and estimated that it would take at least another year to resolve the situation, either by finding an alternative source of supply or by treating the contaminated water within the two wells.

    Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Contamination

    Perfluorooctane sulfonate is a common type of perfluorinated compound that was developed in the early 1950s and is commonly used in a variety of products, including fire-fighting foam, semi-conductors, non-stick coatings, textiles, and paper-based products. While it is no longer produced in the US, it is still abundant in the environment. The reason for this is that because the compound was developed to be resistant to water and fats, it does not readily break down in the environment. Their slippery consistency makes them difficult to screen, difficult to eradicate, and allows them to spread easily. Consequently they are abundant in the environment and have been found in the tissue of fish and other animals, including humans across the US.

    Health Impacts

    Research conducted on primates and rodents have shown that PFOS compounds accumulate in the kidneys and liver, and is associated with reproductive and developmental problems, as well as cancer. A provisional health advisory put out by the EPA in 2009 states that exposure to PFOS levels over 0.2 ppb "may cause adverse health effects in the short term (weeks to months)."

  • BPS, a Common BPA Substitute, is Just as Harmful to Humans

    If you are aware of the dangers of BPA and are actively taking precautions to avoid exposure by selecting food and beverages packed in BPA-free packaging, you may still be vulnerable to the toxins associated with BPA, as well as the health hazards.

    Bisphenol S (BPS), commonly used to replace hazardous bisphenol A (BPA) in household products, may be just as detrimental to cardiovascular health as BPA, according to the results of a new study, which were recently presented at a joint meeting held in Chicago by the Endocrine Society and the International Society of Endocrinology (ICE/ENDO 2014).

    Since research has shown BPA to have many potentially harmful effects on humans, in recent years many manufacturers of hard plastics and other consumer products have chosen to switch from BPA to a chemically similar compound, BPS, marketing these products as BPA-free.


    However, according to lead author of this study, Hong-Sheng Wang, from the University of Cincinnati, while some BPA-free products are free of bisphenols, "BPS is one of the substitutes used in BPA-free products. There is implied safety in BPA-free products. The thing is, the BPA analogs—and BPS is one of them—have not been tested for safety in humans."

    BPA is a known hormone disrupter that can disrupt estrogen as well as other hormones, however, it is unclear whether BPS also interferes with hormones.

    For this study -- which Wang refers to as an initial assessment of the effect of BPS on the primary cells and/or organs of mammals -- Wang and his colleagues tested a dose of BPS similar to that found in urine samples of humans in other studies, on the hearts of a sample of 50 rats.

    When comparing the results of rats that were exposed to BPS to the control group that were not, female rats that were exposed to BPS exhibited a rapidly elevated heart rate, which led to abnormalities in heart rhythm under stress, which far exceeded that of the control group of rats that were not exposed to BPS. Electrocardiograms showed that for female rats, exposure to BPS resulted in additional heart beats and caused the heart to race. BPS did not reportedly have the same effect on the hearts of male rats.

    To better understand the cause of these effects on the hearts of female rats, the research team looked at the muscle cells of affected rats. They discovered that BPS exposure led to abnormal cycling of calcium, which according to Wang, is a primary cause of an irregular heart beat. It is also very similar to the toxic effect that BPA has on the heart, as Wang and his team showed in an earlier study.

    The researchers attempted to prevent the heart rhythm anomalies induced by BPS in the female rats by blocking an estrogen receptor. According to Wang, their results showed that "the BPA analog BPS is not necessarily free of endocrine-disrupting activity."

    "Our findings call into question the safety of BPA-free products containing BPS," Wang concludes. "BPS and other BPA analogs need to be evaluated before further use by humans."

    Bottled water is one consumer item that is packaged in plastic bottles that often contain BPA. These chemicals can potentially leach into the contents, especially when stored for long periods. To avoid long term exposure to Bisphenol toxins we advise drinking filtered water rather spring water supplied in plastic bottles.

  • New Study Highlights the Hazards of Ingredients in Fracking Fluids

    With the oil and gas industry rapidly expanding across the country, there is rising concern regarding the hydraulic fracturing process used to extract these natural resources from deep within the ground. Environmentalists and local residents are particularly concerned about the fluids used in the extraction process, and more specifically the contents that make up these fluids.

    A new study that examines the contents of fracking fluids raises concerns regarding various ingredients contained within. The researchers who presented the results of their study at the 248th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) last week, found that of the approximately 200 compounds that are typically used in fracking fluids, we have very little knowledge of the potential health hazards of a third of these compounds, except that eight are known to be poisonous to mammals.

    Fracking pond

    While hydraulic fracturing has led to a boom in the natural gas industry in the US, the process, which involves pumping a solution of water mixed with a wide variety of chemicals deep into underground rock formations to force the gas and oil out of the ground, is extremely controversial. Supporters of fracking say that it is the answer to our energy woes and provides employment opportunities, and consequently offers huge economical benefits. Those against fracking, are concerned about the environmental and health consequences associated with pumping vast amounts of chemically-laden fluids into the ground, with the biggest fear being contamination of drinking water resources, particularly contamination of groundwater in subterranean aquifers.

    "The industrial side was saying, 'We're just using food additives, basically making ice cream here,'" says Stringfellow. "On the other side, there's talk about the injection of thousands of toxic chemicals. As scientists, we looked at the debate and asked, 'What's the real story?'"

    The research team conducted an extensive search of reports and databases to draw up a list of substances that are commonly added to fracking fluids. These substances include gelling or thickening agents, biocides to prevent microbial growth, sand to force open tiny fissures within the rocks, and rust inhibiting chemical compounds to prevent corrosion of pipes.

    Their analyses of this extensive list of ingredients reveals that both views are true to a certain extent -- but with some notable limitations. Fluids used in the fracking process do indeed contain many non-toxic and/or food-grade substances as the oil and gas industry proclaims, however, just because a substance is biodegradable or edible, it doesn't necessarily mean that it can be readily disposed.

    "You can't take a truckload of ice cream and dump it down the storm drain," says Stringfellow, echoing the analogy used by the fracking industry. "Even ice cream manufacturers have to treat dairy wastes, which are natural and biodegradable. They must break them down rather than releasing them directly into the environment."

    The researchers found that the majority of chemical ingredients will need to be treated before they can be released into the environment. And while the substances considered toxic were not as extensive as certain critics propose, the team identified eight ingredients, including biocides, which they consider to be of grave concern, as they are known to be especially poisonous to mammals.

    "There are a number of chemicals, like corrosion inhibitors and biocides in particular, that are being used in reasonably high concentrations that potentially could have adverse effects," Stringfellow notes. "Biocides, for example, are designed to kill bacteria — it's not a benign material."  Upon assessing the impact that fracking fluids are having on the environment, the researchers have determined that some ingredients are also toxic to aquatic organisms.

    Furthermore, for approximately a third of the roughly 190 fracking substances listed, there is very little information available regarding their chemical and physical properties or toxicity -- information that should be included on a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) of potentially hazardous compounds.

    "It should be a priority to try to close that data gap," Stringfellow says.

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