A study conducted by researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder has found that surfactant chemicals extracted from samples of hydraulic fracturing fluids are no more toxic than common household products. The researchers’ November 12th statement noted that the chemicals identified in the fracking fluids are also found in consumer products, including toothpastes, laxatives, detergents, and ice creams.

The fracking fluid samples were taken from a geographically varied group of operations located in Colorado, Louisiana, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Texas. The chemicals in the fluids were identified through the use of state-of the-art mass spectrometry instrumentation. The study is the first published paper to identify many of the organic compounds used in fracking fluids, and the results provide a detailed list of ingredients that can be used to determine whether water contamination could be traced to a fracking operation. The authors, however, warned that their results may not be applicable to all hydraulically fractured wells, as fluid mixtures are often precisely calibrated for the underlying geology.

The authors of the study, which was published in the journal Analytical Chemistry, are Michael Thurman, co-founder of the Laboratory for Environmental Mass Spectrometry at CU-Boulder’s College of Engineering and Applied Science, and Imma Ferrer, chief scientist at the mass spectrometry laboratory. They are in the process of analyzing additional water samples collected from other wells as part of a larger CU-Boulder study to ascertain the impacts of natural gas development.

With assistance from Andrew McNamee