Hydraulic fracturing, popularly known as “fracking,” is the damaging process by which energy companies harvest natural gas by simultaneously drilling and blasting water mixed with hundreds of chemicals at high pressure deep into the ground. In the United States alone, energy companies have established over half a million active wells.

A wasteful, chemical-ridden endeavor, each fracturing uses 1-8 millions gallons of water and about 40,000 gallons of about 600 different chemicals, including deadly toxins and carcinogens. At it’s current rate, the 500,000 active wells in the country require an accumulated amount of 72 trillion gallons of water and 360 billion gallons of chemicals to operate.

Canada has been infected with the plague of fracking in very much the same way that the United States has. However, their disclosure laws are more environmentally driven as there is more open access to information about fracking companies and their processes than in the states.

The British Columbia Oil and Gas Commission, a fracking company-transparency group, has worked to make sure that legislators, domestically and abroad, know what kind of chemicals these companies are using. The group compiled a list of many of the chemicals that energy companies use during the fracking process.

Below is a comprehensive table of the most dangerous and deadly chemicals, with effects ranging from minor skin irritation to severe effects like organ failure and death.    



Effects of Exposure


Prolonged inhalation and skin contact can cause asthma, conjunctivitis, and can irritate the lungs and throat.

Ammonium Chloride

Damage to the respiratory system, dyspnea, and pulmonary sensitization.

Quaternary Ammonium Chloride

Sore throat and skin burns to severe symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and shock and collapse.

Ammonium Persulphate

An oxidizing compound, this chemical could cause lung edema, symptoms similar to asthma, and life-threatening shock, if inhaled.

Magnesium Peroxide

Severe eye irritation, shortness of breath, bloating, vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea.

Calcium Chloride

Respiratory irritation, gastrointestinal irritation, nausea, vomiting.

Tetramethyl ammonium chloride

Severe eye damage, skin irritation, if ingested, can burn the insideof the oral cavity and GI tract, and could also be fatal.


Prolonged exposure can cause coma, shock, and kidney failure with long term effects including blindness and nervous system damage.

Formic Acid

Irritates the upper respiratory tract and skin. Ingestion can lead to burning of the mouth, bloody vomit, and death.

Petroleum Distillate

Immediately dangerous to human health, can cause dizziness, headaches, nasal irritation, and death.

Hydrotreated Light Petroleum Distillate

Headaches, nausea, unconsciousness, diarrhea, and vomiting.

Triethanolamine Zirconate

Repeated skin and eye contact can cause kidney and liver damage and ingestion can cause nausea, vomiting, collapse, and induce comas.

Boric Acid

Boric Acid poisoning causes blue-green vomit, convulsions, collapse, soma, muscle spasms, and blisters.

Ethylene Glycol

Acute exposure can cause central nervous system depression, damage cardiopulmonary functions of the body, and cause renal damage.


A probable human carcinogen, can cause numbing of the limbs, dull tendon reflexes, and is thought to cause lung, thyroid, and adrenal gland tumors.

Thioglycolic Acid

Can cause olfactory paralysis, shortness of breath, liver damage, severe eye damage, conjunctival inflammation, central nervous system depression, and burning within the oral cavity and GI tract.

Sodium Erythorbate

Headaches, flushing, can cause red blood cells to rupture, vomiting, nausea, kidney stones, and bloody urine.

Lauryl Sulphate

Cited as a cancer risk by the EPA, high exposure can damage the liver and kidneys. Very high exposure can also be fatal.

Sodium Hydroxide

Acute effects are possible permanent eye damage, pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs) with bronchitis and permanent lung damage after repeated exposure.

Potassium Hydroxide

Exposure effects are almost identical to that of Sodium Hydroxide.

Acetic Acid

Skin corrosion, deep tissue burns, pulmonary edema, blindness, respiratory failure, cardiac arrest, and death.

Sodium Carbonate

Skin irritation; nausea, vomiting, diarrhea if swallowed, with long-term exposure linked to hand ulcers and nasal perforation.

Phosphonic Acid Salt

Eye burning and irritation, coughing, and can cause bronchitis over long-term exposure.


Deadly if swallowed or inhaled. This flammable gas can damage the liver, kidneys, and nervous system, and has been suspected of causing blood cancer.


Exposure has been linked to jaundice, renal shutdown, corneal damage, and optimal neuritis.


Acute exposure can lead to nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, with other effects being that it can damage the liver and kidneys.


Josh is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. Follow him on Twitter @dnJdeli.