A Colorado mother whose son has dangerously high levels of cancer-causing benzene in his blood says that she believes the nearby fracking wells are to blame.
Elizabeth Ewaskowitz, who holds a doctorate of pharmacology and neuroscience from the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver, had her 6-year-old son tested for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in his blood because they reside within a mile of 158 fracking wells.
The results showed that the boy was in the 85th percentile for benzene and 72nd percentile for ethylbenzene. Chronic exposures to both the VOCs are known to cause birth defects, blood disorders, and deadly leukemias.
She took her concerns to state regulators at a meeting of the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), hoping to find answers.
“If it isn’t the proximity of 158 wells that are within a one-mile radius of my home and my son’s school, then where would you say this level of exposure to this environmental carcinogen is coming from? Where?” she asked
Denver 7 covered the ordeal Ms. Ewaskowitz and her son face. The report invoked the wrath of the oil and gas industry, which immediately set out to discredit Ms. Ewaskowitz and her claims that the fracking operations are the likely source of her son’s benzene blood levels.
Dr. John Hughes, who conducted a VOC study in Erie, Colorado, where Ms. Ewaskowitz lives, told Denver 7 that he conducted benzene blood tests on dozens of patients in that area and noted that the fracking wells are clearly to blame for all benzene contamination.
“It is not rocket science. If you’re releasing toxic chemicals into the air. People, animals, and livestock are probably getting exposed to it,” Dr. John Hughes told Denver 7.
He said the most alarming aspect of Ms. Ewaskowitz’s son’s report and others like it is the high levels of ethylbenzene. Unlike benzene, ethylbenzene rarely comes from other sources.
“There’s no ethylbenzene in your gasoline, for example. There’s not a lot of other industry sources out there so the only real source of that is really from natural gas operations,” Dr. Hughes told Denver 7, adding that “There’s really no debate there. It is solid science.”
For now, her son’s blood tests and the industry’s flippant response to them have placed Ms. Ewaskowitz in a David vs. Goliath scenario.
“I’m a scientist who wants to be thoughtful about this and I’m a mom who’s trying really hard not to panic over the blood level results I’ve just found for my son,” Ms. Ewaskowitz told Denver 7.