Exposure to increased radiation levels from fracking materials is a risk for both workers and residents. A study demonstrated that radon levels in Pennsylvania homes rose since the advent of the fracking boom, and buildings in heavily drilled areas had significantly higher radon readings than areas without well pads—a discrepancy that did not exist before 2004. University of Iowa researchers documented a variety of radioactive substances including radium, thorium, and uranium in fracking wastewater and determined that their radioactivity increased over time; they warned that radioactive decay products can potentially contaminate recreational, agricultural, and residential areas.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s “Findings Statement” noted that naturally occurring radioactive materials are brought to the surface “in the cuttings, flowback water and production brine. . . . the build-up of radioactive material in pipes and equipment has the potential to cause a significant adverse impact because it could expose workers handling pipes, for cleaning or maintenance, to increased radiation levels.”
The disposal of radium and other radioactive material is problematic. There appears no simple way to dispose of the waste we have created and for some, their half life can be measured in generations.