Schlumberger employees work during an oil fracking process in Vaca Muerta in the Patagonian province of Neuquen, Argentina, September 20, 2013. (Photo: Anibal Adrian Greco / The New York Times)
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking – a method whereby hydrocarbons trapped within rocks are extracted – is expanding rapidly in Latin America. Fracking emits benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene, which are considered by the World Health Organization to be carcinogenic and responsible for blood disorders and other immunological effects. Despite these adverse health effects, however, reserves have already been mapped out in Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico.
In Mexico, recently passed energy reform legislation promotes fracking as a means of extracting shale gas – and with the reform, the government has opened the oil industry up to the private sector. More than 1,000 wells using the technique are currently in operation in at least 11 of Mexico’s 32 states. These fracking efforts are largely being carried out by North American companies such as Halliburton, Schlumberger and Baker Hughes, among others.
“I didn’t know anything about oil, but after our water started to get contaminated, we found out that more than 240 wells in our region were using that thing they call fracking,” Mariana Rodríguez, from the community of Papantla, Veracruz, told Truthout. “Now all our water sources have become contaminated.”