Doctors Ask New York to Study the Public Health Risks of Fracking

by , 10/06/11
filed under: Energy,Health,News

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As New York State considers whether or not to allow hydraulic fracturing, officials have been conducting a seemingly comprehensive risk assessment, studying the effects of fracking on everything from job creation to animal habitats. But, shockingly, the study completely omits examining the risks to public health. A group of doctors and environmentalists wrote a letter to Governor Cuomo this week, urging him to complete a comprehensive study of the potential health risks for people who could be exposed to toxic chemicals and tainted water because of fracking.

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The doctors cite a growing list of documented health cases of people living near gas wells and waste pits who experience deteriorating health, breathing difficulties, and increased cases of asthma. “The environmental impacts of gas development include air and water pollution and soil contamination, which are clearly established pathways for health impacts,” reads the letter, which was signed by more than 250 doctors and anti-drilling groups.

The DEC’s environmental impact study is currently under public review, and critics are displeased with the fact that it considers non-environmental aspects, like job creation, while completely omitting public health. But officials maintain that they completed a thorough review of health problems in other states and incorporated rules into their proposed guidelines that would prevent these same issues in New York.

The New York Times also quoted a statement from the natural gas industry group, ensuring that public health would be safe:

While some will suggest the hydraulic fracturing process poses a threat to human health, regulations and permit conditions have been and will be in place to prevent pathways to humans and the environment, similar to those in effect for many other industries.

Well, if the regulations and permits are anything like those for the oil industry, then we’ve got nothing to worry about. It’s not like there have been any recent oil spills that devastated the environment and made residents sick. Nope, none at all.

If you have questions about fracking that you would like to have answered, Joe Martens, head of the Department of Environmental Conservation, will be answering questions this coming Saturday morning on Governor Cuomo’s CitizensConnect website.

Via The New York Times



  1. atomicbloke October 7, 2011 at 4:34 pm
    We attended a screening of Gasland, that Josh Fox presented. I can't remember whether he documented that particular instance or whether what you say is true. But the examples he gave in Pennsylvania are documented. One of the cards the industry is playing is that because relatively few customers have tested prior to fracking the industry can state that they didn't cause the problems, since no one can prove a "before". Colleges and other institutions in PA are now testing prior to fracking so a ground zero can be established. The ability to light a water faucet on fire is the attention grabber, it makes a great visual, and the industry has concentrated it's efforts on rediculing that, I guess in the hope that people will think that it's a slam dunk rebuttal. However that's the least of it, the environmental impacts of toxic gas releases from the drill sites, the poor waste management and the threat to our water sources are far bigger issues. Plus the problem of an unregulated industry makes all of this moot. It should be regulated, the sites should be monitored, if only to prove that the industry is telling the truth and that they have nothing to hide. The circumstance that Halliburton developed this technology and Cheney was in office right then, is for many people a smoking gun and one that needs our concern. And the even bigger issue is that with solar coming onstream so quickly, why should we invest in a dinosaur industry using unsustainable fossil fuels?
  2. lazyreader October 7, 2011 at 2:15 pm
    Ive seen Gasland as well. It turns out that has little to do with fracking. In many parts of America, there is enough methane in the ground to leak into people's well water. The best fire scene in the movie was shot in Colorado, where the filmmaker is in the kitchen of a man who lights his faucet. But Colorado investigators went to that man's house, checked out his well and found that fracking had nothing to do with his water catching fire. His well-digger had drilled into a naturally occurring methane pocket. 40 percent of the wells in Pennsylvania have some sort of naturally occurring methane gas and other types of things. Gas can migrate, from poor drilling into people's private water wells. We have had gas move from poorly done gas drilling through the ground and reach people's water wells. So there is a need for oversight; gas does have some impacts. It is not perfectly clean. But compared to coal and oil, which are more dirty fossil fuels, natural gas can be produced and consumed in a manner that is cleaner than coal. Filmmaker Josh Fox concedes that the states concluded that the fire wasn't caused by fracking.
  3. atomicbloke October 7, 2011 at 1:53 pm
    That comment from "lazyreader"sounds like it comes from a paid spokesman for the industry. And there's plenty of those, as they're throwing millions of PR dollars at this to silence the opposition. Anyone who's seen Josh Fox's "Gasland", knows there's far more risk to health and the environment than the industry wants you to know. Development in NY means development of the Uttica Shale, which would impact the largest unfiltered water delivery source to the greatest population (about 15 million people) on the planet. For the short term benefit - at most 50 years - you're potentially destroying the integrity of a clean water source forever - when they frack it's not just the chemicals they introduce which gets back into the water source, but they also disturb radioactive sediments common at those depths which find their way into the aquifers. The bottom line is that they have no control over the fracking process, they don't know how many cracks and fissures the process will open up, and where the toxic chemicals they've introduced will end up. The EPA exception that the industry gained from the Bush administration, means that this industry is unregulated, and does not need to be publicly accountable for any environmental or health impacts they cause, the EPA is not even allowed to monitor them. Some countries have already decided to ban the process, and for good reason. Much better to invest the money in Solar Power and avoid the problems altogether.
  4. lazyreader October 6, 2011 at 10:39 am
    Fracking is nothing new to the natural gas industry. It has been around for more than 60 years and over 100,000 gas wells are dug per year, most of them in sparsely populated areas in the western U.S. With the discovery of the Marcellus Shale in the eastern part of the country, fracking is increasingly common in populated parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York, leading to heightened tensions between drillers and environmentalists. Cases of contaminated water supplies were the result of poorly designed wells that had nothing to do with fracking itself, it's the pipes designed to carry the gas. The technology is only now being adapted to oil extraction, enough to produce an additional 3 million barrels a day in the U.S. in existing oil wells.