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Fracking Regulations Needed to Protect Gas Workers, AFL-CIO Says

The AFL-CIO, the biggest U.S. labor organization, said that hydraulic fracturing -- drilling to free natural gas and oil from shale rock -- is harmful to workers and should be monitored by the federal government.

The oil- and gas-extraction industry has a death rate more than seven times that for all U.S. workers, the group said in a letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Mine Safety and Health Administration. The U.S. should identify occupational concerns related to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and require medical surveillance of workers and the monitoring of their exposure to materials used in the process, the AFL-CIO said.

“A strong effort by the federal safety and health agencies is needed to work with the industry and involved unions to ensure that these controls are properly implemented as employment in this industry sector rapidly grows,” according to the letter sent today.

Studies have shown high levels of exposure to crystalline silica in the fracking industry, putting workers at risk of silicosis, lung cancer, and other diseases, the AFL-CIO said in the letter, citing the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Fracking involves injecting millions of gallons of water, chemicals and sand thousands of feet underground into shale formations. Environmental groups say the practice can pollute drinking water supplies.

The drilling technology has helped boost gas supplies, driving prices to $1.902 per million British thermal units on April 19, the lowest in a decade.

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