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Karoo fracking could cause cancer – CANSA

Known carcinogenic chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing for shale gas (fracking) could lead to an epidemic of cancer in the Karoo, says Cancer Association of SA (Cansa) acting head of research Dr Carl Albrecht in a Business Day report.

Cansa has hosted a seminar about the possible negative effects of fracking on people’s health, should it go ahead in the ecologically sensitive Karoo basin. "The use of known carcinogenic chemicals such as benzene and formaldehyde … have both been classified as Group 1 carcinogens in humans by the International Agency for Research on Cancer," Albrecht said.

Fracking has become an important issue as South Africa struggles to find fast solutions for its energy problems. Three companies have applied for exploration licences in the Karoo basin – Shell SA, Falcon Oil & Gas and Bundu Gas & Oil. The Department of Mineral Resources has granted the companies permission to explore using non-drilling techniques until regulations for fracking are finalised.

The Department of Environmental Affairs published a draft version of the regulations in 2013. A final version was due to be published this month. But it is unclear whether this will happen as President Jacob Zuma has referred the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act Amendment Bill back to Parliament for further consideration.

Albrecht said the effect of fracking on human health was the one critical area that was missing from the draft regulations. SA had a three-year window to do proper water baseline tests to determine the quality of the water before fracking started, Albrechts said. "Effectively we are looking at the possibility of a cancer epidemic erupting in the Karoo."

[link url=""]Full Business Day report[/link]

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