More About Fracking—and Especially Strontium and Bone Health

March 1, 2011
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After last week’s article on the problems being created by hydraulic fracturing, some readers raised a couple of very important questions. We’re happy to provide some clarification.

One reader writes:

“I live in an area where producers have been fracturing oil and gas wells for close to a century. I spent my career in oil transportation and I have never heard of the kinds of problems you suggest are arising in Pennsylvania. Something is amiss—either the wells are drilled and serviced with inferior materials or regulations surrounding wastewater disposal are too lax or ??? or ???. I have a hard time believing the fracking itself is the problem since it’s a refinement of a very old technology.”

The old method of natural gas extraction was simply to dig a hole straight down into trapped natural gas, which sits in a kind of natural reservoir, and then capture that gas as it takes the path of least resistance up to the surface. The modern method of hydraulic fracking is radically different. New drilling technology allows a hole to be dug straight down and then be turned sideways and extended in multiple directions horizontally. Here is a diagram:

shale-gas-diagram_fracking

The holes are then pumped full of water, sand, and chemicals at very high pressure. This literally splits the rocks open to capture natural gas that was stuck inside them.

The concrete and steel well linings used in hydraulic fracking frequently rupture under the violence of this mining method, and the 2005 Halliburton exemption exempts these wells and sites from the Clean Water Act and other regulatory laws.

Another reader writes,

“I get email from ANH and commonly sign petitions. You have a new article about fracking that talks about strontium causes cancer and bone problems. It’s actually the opposite, you need to rewrite this. You have bad information, and I won’t sign because of bad information on the mineral strontium. I know from studies I’ve read it increases bone density better than any drugs out there, safer, natural, it depends on the type of strontium. Please rewrite the article and letter and I’ll think about signing after its been rewritten.”

A third writes,

“Four landmark studies have been conducted in the last five years, uncovering amazing increases in bone mineral density with Strontium supplementation. Strontium is a common element which is naturally found in your bones. Studies show supplementation with strontium in its various forms is well tolerated and completely safe. Strontium lies directly below calcium on the periodic table of elements and that makes calcium, strontium and magnesium all in the same chemical family. They are all naturally occurring metals found in the soil, in foods, and in your body. As an alkaline earth element, strontium is similar to calcium in its absorption in the gut, incorporation in bone, and elimination from the body through the kidneys.

“Strontium is naturally present in trace amounts with around 100 micrograms in every gram of bone, so when you supplement with strontium you are simply making more of this element available for incorporation into your bone. Several forms of strontium salt have been used in clinical studies and each strontium salt has had positive results for bone, so it appears that strontium is the active component, and not the carbonate, ranelate, lactate, or citrate part the strontium is attached to. Strontium inhibits bone resorption while simultaneously stimulating bone growth, an exciting double benefit. No other natural substance or drug is known to provide this dual effect.

“Strontium appears to help reduce dental caries according to a ten-year study sponsored by the US Navy, where residents of a small town had unusually high levels of strontium in the municipal water supply.”

First, we must apologize because a phrase was inadvertently dropped during the editing process. We have revised both the main article and the Action Alert to say that “strontium…is necessary in trace amounts for bone development, but in too large amounts can disrupt it and cause cancer.”

The problem is the difference between strontium supplementation, and the low levels of naturally occurring strontium that we might be generally exposed to, and the tremendously high levels of strontium released by the fracking process. Just think of the myriad substances that are quite beneficial when taken in small amounts—belladonna springs quickly to mind—but which will kill you when taken in sufficient quantities.

A study published in the Journal of Petroleum Technology focusing on the concentrations of selected important contaminants in Pennsylvania from Marcellus Shale flowback water found that approximately 3,280 mg/L of strontium—or 16,737 pounds—are released every day into the Monongahela River. It is in those high concentrations that strontium poses a risk of bone cancer, cancer of the soft tissue near the bone, and leukemia.

Interestingly, a radioactive form of the mineral, strontium-89, is being administered along with chemotherapy drugs and is being studied in the treatment of bone pain caused by some types of cancer, whereas strontium-90 may actually cause bone cancer.

Lenntech, which does water treatment for many different industries, says this about strontium: “Strontium compounds that are water-insoluble can become water-soluble, as a result of chemical reactions. The water-soluble compounds are a greater threat to human health than the water-insoluble ones. Therefore, water-soluble forms of strontium have the opportunity to pollute drinking water. Fortunately the concentrations in drinking water are usually quite low….When strontium uptake is extremely high, it can cause disruption of bone development. But this effect can only occur when strontium uptake is in the thousands of ppm range.”

You may be interested to learn about a new book called Your Bones: How You Can Prevent Osteoporosis and Have Strong Bones for Life—Naturally. It’s by Lara Pizzorno, managing editor for Longevity Medicine Review and senior medical editor for SaluGenecists, Inc., and occasional ANH-USA contributor Jonathan Wright, MD. One of the book’s big revelations is that the medicines prescribed to prevent osteoporosis should be your last choice for healthy bones: not only do these drugs have terrible side effects, they also don’t build healthy, new bone—instead, they cause retention of old, brittle bone and can lead to jaw death.

Your Bones will be available on May 1 from Praktikos Books. Feel free to contact them and reserve an advance copy.

15 Responses to “More About Fracking—and Especially Strontium and Bone Health”

  1. Bill Brickenstein says:

    I don’t like this whole campaign. It is a bad case of knee-jerk, Not In My BackYard (NIMBY) overreaction. The world needs affordable energy and natural gas is the cleanest burning fuel; it will be a long time, if ever, before on/off sources like wind and solar (which are at least 5 times more expensive) can replace it; more likely, we will need gas turbines installed for long streches of cloudy, windless days. Nothing in this world is perfectly safe, from walking to driving to flying, but fracking is well practiced and relatively harmless. This kind of “don’t do nothing nowhere” overreaction and fear mongering will just have us all freezing in the dark (and out of work to boot). I quit GreenPeace due to this head in the sand NIMBY attitude; stick to real health/vitamin issues or drop me from your mailing lists as well!

       0 likes

    • Ace says:

      Thank God for this type of “knee jerking!!” Fracking, in the manner described, should be outlawed, along with all other disgusting business practices (like GMO in agriculture).

         2 likes

    • joyce says:

      That makes a ot of sense, threatening to ignore concerns you know are in imminent danger, because you don’t want to hear or don’t agree with or don’t want to know about others. Things aren’t being DONE the way they used to, & not entirely sure they were always on the up & up but i do believe that people took greater care & had a better moral compass. Not only have the processes implemented changed but the efficacy of those administering monitoring reporting on & implementing those processes are of less intuitive skill, hands on education, or intellect and just don’t fracking care. Gimme my paycheck, I showed up, I got mine, screw the rest. So what was your point? You want cheap gas, who cares if they’ve put dangerous machinations in place to effect that, & you want your reliable income, even if it means a loss of life for someone else> OK that makes sense; you currently work for the machine that poisons us & don’t want to hear it, for shame?! I hope US retains the rights to enforce safe drilling practices for workers & those living in those environs, (even those who don’t care about the rest of us) & that I retain my rights to speak freely about the dangers to my & other’s health, as well as the right of US to protect our own health through growing safe foods, and finding supplementation as needed.

         0 likes

  2. Barbara says:

    I want more information, I take this?

       0 likes

  3. Gary says:

    “The concrete and steel well linings used in hydraulic fracking frequently rupture under the violence of this mining method”

    This is a totally false statement. The steel well linings, called casing, has to be a certain thickness and meet industry strength standards and seldom rupture. The well is tested before it begins producing and if there is a leak it is fixed. Otherwise the well will produce at a lower rate and not as efficiently, and $ profit will be lower. So it is in the oil company’s best interest to make sure there is not a problem. Please back up the statement above with some statistical facts.

       0 likes

    • Ace says:

      I would have to research it but I suspect your statements are the false ones. If it’s happened more than once, no reason not to use the word frequently. Besides, purposely contaminating the soil to extract any fossil fuel, should be banned: period!

         0 likes

    • joyce says:

      yeah, and the gas tanks that house the gas at the local stations, they were all safe, didn’t leak, & of course they would have been fixed if they did, because that would cut into profits, right? yeah, right? do you know many stations have been fenced off/boarded up closed – for years once they were caught just in my town? Some of them reopened after refitting so they supposedly no longer leak…

      that’s just an example any 21st century American can see.

      Now if I knew you & trusted you I could share with you those facts you asked about, or at least a few instances where certain oil companies threatened certain folks I personally know, if they didn’t turn their head the other way – keep high paying job, or become unemployed & slandered – which really IS a tough choice when you see children getting sick & you can’t say anything to prevent it.

         1 likes

      • Ace says:

        Thank you! I have a pretty good idea. I have decent intuition regarding whom is credible. There are some news reports and a documentary on youtube. I saw one on television a short while ago, where a man’s kitchen faucet caught fire when he put a lighter to it. For something like that, and others, to happen, something is clearly wrong! Ironically, the Waltons episode was the one where John Boy hastily sold his land to a mining firm,and Granpa was severely upset over it. How horrible that people you know were threatened. Sadly, it doesn’t surprise me, however. It becomes harder, in many ways, to avoid the affects of the unscrupulous. Take care!

           0 likes

  4. Brenda Ray says:

    I have been taking a high-quality strontium supplement for a couple of years. Because I am in the last phase of treatment for cancer, I have been taking Femara, a drug that can reduce bone density. My doctor wants me to take Fosamax, but I have been warned away from that; it could cause osteonecrosis of the jawbone! I figure I’m a lot safer taking the strontium.

    I go for a bone-density scan every year. While the last one showed no improvement, it seems that my bones aren’t getting any thinner. I’m satisfied with that.

    I am fortunate to live in a state where fracking is not done.

       0 likes

  5. Thank you for getting this information to me as I have six (6) compression fractures in my spine. It has been determined that I have osteoporosis, my Dr. prescribed “Fosomax” and I have not started taking it yet because the known side effects are very scary to me. Thank you again, I need this book!!

       0 likes

  6. Thank you for getting this information to me, as I have six (6) compression fractures in my back and was diagnosed with osteoporosis and prescribed “Fosomax” (sp?) and have not started it yet because the known side effects are scary to me. I need this book!!

       0 likes

    • joyce says:

      Please do NOT take fosamax! You may want to check into lawsuits filed before considering taken these RX drugs. Also be aware of the calcium debacle. Calcium depletes magnesium, which everyone needs & most are deficient in. also taking calcium does NOT = strengthen bone /growth & can actually inhibit. Please investigate – doctors don’t have time, they tell you what they were taught & are being told now (by ? – pharmaceutical reps!) as they can hardly go back to school, & sadly even now there is so much that is still being taught falsely. No one can care for you as much as you do. Ultimately, you are responsible… and whenever you do take prescriptions, ask for the circular, & READ it, read all the side effects – & consider the risks, & also see what people have reported online = many side effects are NOT reported by Big Pharma companies when they submit their research for approval of drugs!

         0 likes

    • geminga says:

      Don’t know how this will effect you but I had jaw problems (bad pain when chewing) and developed severe digestive problems due to a fosomax type medication.I had never had any of these issues proior to taking the drug. After I stopped taking it the symptoms lingered for many months but eventually subsided. Based on my experience I would never take this stuff again. Dr. Mercola has some good info for any one contemplating taking this class of drug. I now take natural supplements to support the bones…no side effects!

         0 likes

  7. JOANNE T BECKER says:

    Thank you for printing the enlightening comments on the use of strontium. I’ve been urging everyone I know whose doctors insist they start taking drugs for osteopena and osteoporosis, to take strontium instead. This is exactly the ticket for low bone density and is safe and inexpensive to take. It should be emphasized that calcium and strontium should NOT be taken together as both minerals find their way to the same receptors within the body and if taken together may displace one or the other. Both calcium and strontium are necessary for good bone health. I completely agree with the comments made by both writers, above.

       0 likes

    • Ace says:

      Did we read the same article? I thought it was an article “downing” fracking not promoting a mineral. Seems all here have missed the point! I say stand-up straight and take Cal-Mag.

         0 likes

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