In addition to the countless ways in which it destroys the environment, it turns out that drilling into the earth’s crust also releases radioactive particles into the air that could pollute nearby cities.
New research shows that these radioactive particles can be released from the ground and transported long distances by wind, reports The Guardian. This is worrying news, and Harvard researchers behind the study warn that it could pose an undeclared risk to the health of people living in the area.
Radioactive particles were more widespread in the wind in the areas of the drilling sites, according to a investigation recently published in the journal Nature Communications which examined public data from around 120,000 such sites in the US. Even at 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) away, which was as close to any site as public data obtained, the radioactivity was 40% higher than the background levels.
“If you asked me to go and live in such areas, I wouldn’t go,” Petros Koutrakis, Harvard’s lead author and environmental health researcher, told The Guardian. “People should not go crazy, but I think it is a significant risk that needs to be addressed,” he added.
The study adds the importance of airborne radiation to the end of a long list of health and environmental hazards caused by this process – including waterborne radiation – that no US presidential candidate seems to have any interest in stopping.
“We should not ask ourselves to what extent the radioactive risk in the air caused by drilling is compared to the risk on water,” Marco Kaltofen, a scientist at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute who did not work on the study, told The Guardian. “We should ask ourselves if it is a good idea to add radioactive particles either in the air or in the water. This study suggests that the answer is clearly no. “