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Scientists Can Now See Fracker’s “Fingerprints” All over Polluted Water

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People are getting sick all across fracking country, and many are blaming their mysterious illnesses - headaches, excruciating rashes, even liver damage - on the chemicals oil and gas companies have been pumping into the earth. But thanks to trade-secret laws, which allow companies to stay mum about the chemicals in their fracking fluid, it's been difficult to pin the blame on the practice - until now that is.

Researchers from Dartmouth College, Stanford University, and the French Geological Survey claim they've created a tool that detects a specific chemical fingerprint unique to fracking fluid, allowing scientists to pinpoint fracking as a culprit in water pollution.

According to their research, boron and lithium - which both occur naturally in shale - mix with fracking fluid when it's injected underground, altering the wastewater's chemical makeup in ways different from other fossil fuel extraction methods. As Avner Vengosh, a geochemist at Duke University, told Think Progress, this new detection method, which hones in specifically on this chemical fingerprint, bypasses the whole trade-secret hiccup:

"Many of the fracking operations today are happening in areas that have a legacy of 20, 30 years of conventional oil and gas development," Vengosh said. "So when there's contamination, [fracking companies] can say 'Oh, it's not us - it's the legacy of 30 years of operations here."

"We now have the tools to say, well, sometimes you're right and sometimes you're wrong," he added.         

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