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Duquesne Toxicology Team Compiling Data on Fracking Components

Forensic science at Duquesne University has moved into the arena of Marcellus Shale.

Dr. Fred Fochtman, director of forensic science and law in the Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, and his research team have received grant funding to compile information about the chemicals used in fracking-not just for one company or agency, but as documentation to be used nationally and internationally.

This spring, information now scattered across a realm of books, documents and online sources, should be handily available, consolidated into one spot. With a $193,000 grant from Weatherford US LP, a worldwide oil and gas service company, Fochtman and Paul Carlson, adjunct faculty member and scientist reviewer, established a team to research and prepare monographs on the identified chemicals.

"These monographs will provide a research source for personnel in the oil and gas industry as well as local, state and federal governments," Carlson said.

To harvest Marcellus Shale, fracking fluids are pumped into oil-and gas-bearing rock formations under pressure. These fluids are typically 90 percent water, 9.5 percent sand and 0.5 percent chemical additives, explained Carlson.

The chemical additives are raising concern, including questions about the potential impacts and the compounds.

To clarify the hazards of the chemicals used, a Congressional committee and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are reviewing the technology to determine how to minimize risk. Congress subpoenaed the 14 largest oil and gas service companies that conduct fracking, examined five years of sales data and saw that about 2,500 different products are being used, made up of about 750 different chemicals.

Information on these chemicals will comprise the documentation by the Duquesne team.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.