Petroleum 238: A seven-year investigation of oilfield radioactivity

March 6, 2024
2:00 pm US Eastern Time

Slides & Resources

Slides and Webinar Q&A

Larysa Dyrszka: Shale Gas and Radioactivity: Potential health impacts.

Webinar Q&A


Concerned Health Professionals of New York. 2023. The Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking and Associated Gas and Oil Infrastructure (the Compendium), Ninth edition. 

El Afifi, E. et al. 2023. Radiochemical signature of radium-isotopes and some radiological hazard parameters in TENORM waste associated with petroleum production: A review study. Journal of Environmental Radioactivity 256: 107042.

International Atomic Energy Agency. 2010. Radiation Protection and the Management of Radioactive Waste in the Oil and Gas Industry

Adams, M. 2024. How W.Va. Oil And Gas Industry Leaves Behind Radioactivity. Inside Appalachia. February 26, 2024. (Audio interview.)

Nobel, J. 2020. America's Radioactive Secret. Rolling Stone January 21, 2020.

Nobel, J. 2023. Inside West Virginia's Chernobyl. TruthDig September 18, 2023.

Nobel, J. 2024. Petroleum-238: Big Oil’s Dangerous Secret and the Grassroots Fight to Stop It (Forthcoming, April 2024).

US EPA. 2002. Exemption of Oil and Gas Exploration and Production Wastes from Federal Hazardous Waste Regulations. EPA530-K-01-004.

Click here for Webinar Q&A

In an extraordinary seven-year investigation, science journalist Justin Nobel traveled the country reporting on the oil and gas industry, and learned that much more comes to the surface at a well than just oil and gas. Each year, the industry produces billions of tons of waste — much of it toxic and radioactive. The fracking boom has only worsened the problem. 

Where does this waste go? Justin’s book, Petroleum-238: Big Oil’s Dangerous Secret and the Grassroots Fight to Stop It — to be published in April — explores this question. He found that waste from oil and gas production is shielded by lax regulations and legal loopholes. As a result it has been spilled, spread, injected, dumped, and emitted across the country – including being used to fertilize crops, de-ice roads, and even to build school playgrounds. 

In addition to voluminous academic research, Justin’s account relies on intimate stories from whistle-blowers in the oil and gas industry, courageous workers and community activists. He also explores a trove of never-before released industry and government documents. 

In this webinar, co-hosted with The New School at Commonweal and the Science and Environmental Health Network (SEHN), Justin spoke about the book and the reporting and research journey that led him there. We focused specifically on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota, where intensive oil and gas development has put the community and its land, air, and water at risk. James Brugh, a tribal member of Fort Berthold in western North Dakota, discussed his work to protect his family, his community and the environment from the harms of unconventional oil and gas development.

Dr. Larysa Dyrszka, a retired pediatrician and co-founder of Concerned Health Professionals of New York, now a program of SEHN, discussed how radioactive substances brought to the surface in oil and gas development pose threats to workers, the environment, and communities, with children at particular risk.

CHE Director Kristin Schafer moderated the conversation.

Featured Speakers

James Brugh is a writer, husband and father, and tribal member of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in western North Dakota. He lives in the community of Four Bears and has advocated tirelessly for the protection of his family, the environment, and his community against rampant and relentless oil and gas development. 

Justin Nobel writes on science and environment for US magazines, literary journals and investigative sites. His investigation into the radioactivity brought to the surface in oil and gas production and the various pathways of contamination posed to the industry’s workers, public and communities, and the environment was published in 2020 with Rolling Stone Magazine, “America’s Radioactive Secret” and awarded best longform narrative by the National Association of Science Writers. Justin’s book on this topic, Petroleum-238: Big Oil’s Dangerous Secret and the Grassroots Fight to Stop It will be published in April 2024 and can be pre-ordered at this link.

Dr Larysa Dyrszka is a graduate of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Following residency and board certification in pediatrics, she practiced general pediatrics and held the position of Director of Pediatrics at Holy Name Hospital in Teaneck, NJ. She has been a United Nations representative to ECOSOC with the World Federation of Ukrainian Women’s Organizations, where her work was focused on children’s rights, particularly health. In 2020 she was appointed by the Sullivan County, NY, Legislature to serve on the Sullivan County Health Services Advisory Board. Dr Dyrszka has become an advocate for public health on the issue of oil and gas exploration, production, and its infrastructure. She is a founding member of Sullivan Area Citizens for Responsible Energy Development. Together with fellow NY medical colleagues, she founded Concerned Health Professionals of New York, and has been involved in the production of nine editions of their Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking and Associated Gas and Oil Infrastructure. She is also on the Board of Physicians for Social Responsibility - New York.