Friends of the Earth did this effortlessly recently in a leaflet designed to raise awareness of, and cash for, its anti-fracking campaign. I’m with them on this, but I get frustrated with any bunch of people whose hearts are in the right place but who have disconnected their brains.

FoE dished out a whole slew of leaflets, and in these leaflets they claimed, rightly I suspect, that the chemicals in fracking slurry can leach into watercourses and aquifers, contaminate the water, and perhaps cause cancer. There’s some evidence from the US about this, and certainly there’s been contamination of water supplies, even if no established link to increased cancer rates. When Quadrilla, the fracking company FoE were attacking, responded by saying they did not use dangerous chemicals in the slurry, FoE fumbled getting the gun out of the holster and plugged themselves in the pedal appendage.

‘We understand that Quadrilla use a significant amount of sand to frack… Frack sand tends to contain significant amounts of silica which is a known carcinogen.’

Yikes! Scary stuff eh? They even supplied a link to a report about fracking by a Clive Mitchell, a specialist at the British Geological Survey. At this point they pulled the trigger a second time.

Fracking sand doesn’t just contain significant amounts of silica. Like all sands, it’s composed of silica. It’s the same stuff you find on beaches the world over. Additionally silica isn’t a carcinogen. Very fine silica dust, such as is found in certain industries, can cause a lung condition called silicosis in workers exposed to high levels. This is not cancerous; it’s a result of chemical and physical irritation.

Just to make really sure they would have trouble walking for a while, FoE then went off on a tangent and fired a third round. Fracking slurry sometimes contains polyacrylamide, ‘which contains acrylamide, a probable carcinogen…’ Note the use of the term probable; even FoE were hedging their bets here.

Also bear in mind that the major human exposure to this probable carcinogen comes from eating cooked meat. Nobody is likely to give up bacon sandwiches or a barbie on the basis of this. Even fried potatoes contain pretty big amounts, and not many people will be giving up chips in the near future. Oh, and you’ll find polyacrylamide in contact lens solutions. Having spent a lot of time researching those, I can tell you that polyacrylamide isn’t a problem in the eye, one of the organs in the body most sensitive to chemical insult.

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