Frack­ing Is Mak­ing Peo­ple Sicker Than Any­one Ex­pected

Trillions - - Contents -

A new re­port was just re­leased that shows just how dan­ger­ous frack­ing is as a pub­lic health threat.

The re­port, en­ti­tled “Com­pendium of Sci­en­tific, Med­i­cal, and Me­dia Find­ings Demon­strat­ing Risks and Harms of Frack­ing (Un­con­ven­tional Gas and Oil Ex­trac­tion)” and pub­lished in March 2018, was pro­duced by Con­cerned Health Pro­fes­sion­als of New York and Physi­cians for So­cial Re­spon­si­bil­ity.

The re­port has been de­scribed rightly as be­ing one of the most au­thor­i­ta­tive of its kind. It cites his­tor­i­cal data on both frack­ing it­self and its ef­fects on peo­ple, and it pro­vides an ex­ten­sive analysis of the risks as­so­ci­ated with peo­ple hav­ing ex­po­sure to fracked ar­eas.

Frack­ing was in­tro­duced right at the end of the 20th cen­tury. It came about at a time when oil was scarcer and prices were higher. With that scarcity in mind, un­usual means of ex­trac­tion were be­ing pur­sued to get at oil and nat­u­ral-gas de­posits in shale bedrock. These ex­trac­tion meth­ods used pres­sur­ized flu­ids (of­ten heav­ily laden with var­i­ous chem­i­cals) and in­jected them into the rocks. The chem­i­cals in­cluded, as the re­port notes, “bio­cides, fric­tion re­duc­ers, gelling agents and anti-scal­ing and anti-cor­ro­sion agents.” Once in­jected, those flu­ids would then cause the shale lay­ers to ex­pand and ex­tend the cracks that were al­ready present there. Some­times ex­plo­sive charges were added to the process to fur­ther en­cour­age crack ex­pan­sion.

The re­port fur­ther notes:

“As frack­ing op­er­a­tions in the United States have in­creased in fre­quency, size and in­ten­sity, and as the trans­port of ex­tracted ma­te­ri­als has ex­panded, a sig­nif­i­cant body of ev­i­dence has emerged to de­mon­strate that these ac­tiv­i­ties are dan­ger­ous to peo­ple and their com­mu­ni­ties in ways that are dif­fi­cult — and may prove im­pos­si­ble — to mit­i­gate. Risks in­clude ad­verse im­pacts on wa­ter, air, agri­cul­ture, pub­lic health and safety, prop­erty val­ues, cli­mate sta­bil­ity and eco­nomic vi­tal­ity as well as earth­quakes.” (From page 14 of the re­port)

As for the dam­age to peo­ple who live near frack­ing op­er­a­tions, the re­port’s au­thors note that in Penn­syl­va­nia, where a large num­ber of those are present, “as the num­ber of gas wells in­crease in a com­mu­nity, so do rates of hos­pi­tal­iza­tion, and com­mu­nity mem­bers ex­pe­ri­ence sleep dis­tur­bance, headache, throat ir­ri­ta­tion, stress/anx­i­ety, cough, short­ness of breath, si­nus, fa­tigue, wheez­ing and nau­sea.” As frack­ing and re­lated drilling op­er­a­tions in­crease in an area, the re­port notes, there are “in­creased rates of asthma, el­e­vated mo­tor ve­hi­cle fa­tal­i­ties, am­bu­lance runs and emer­gency room vis­its and gon­or­rhea in­ci­dence.” All of this has been backed up by ex­ten­sive med­i­cal and other records.

The re­port also calls at­ten­tion to the as­so­ci­ated high lev­els of ben­zene, a car­cino­gen, in am­bi­ent air near where drilling and frack­ing are tak­ing place. It states that those lev­els “are sufficient to el­e­vate risks for fu­ture can­cers in both work­ers and nearby res­i­dents” and that “animal stud­ies show nu­mer­ous threats to fer­til­ity and re­pro­duc­tive suc­cess from ex­po­sure to var­i­ous con­cen­tra­tions of oil and gas chem­i­cals, in­clud­ing at lev­els rep­re­sen­ta­tive of those found in drink­ing wa­ter.”the re­port goes on to make a num­ber of damn­ing state­ments about how bad the sit­u­a­tion is be­com­ing. In their “Emerg­ing Trends” analysis part of the re­port, the au­thors state the fol­low­ing:

1. Grow­ing ev­i­dence shows that reg­u­la­tions are sim­ply not ca­pa­ble of pre­vent­ing harm.

2. Frack­ing and the dis­posal of frack­ing waste threaten drink­ing wa­ter.

3. Drilling and frack­ing con­trib­ute to toxic air pol­lu­tion and smog (ground-level ozone) at lev­els known to have health im­pacts.

4. Pub­lic health prob­lems as­so­ci­ated with drilling and frack­ing in­clude poor birth out­comes, re­pro­duc­tive and res­pi­ra­tory im­pacts, cancer risks and oc­cu­pa­tional health and safety prob­lems.

5. Nat­u­ral gas is a threat to the cli­mate.

6. Earth­quakes are a proven con­se­quence of drilling and frack­ing-re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties in many lo­ca­tions.

7. Frack­ing in­fra­struc­ture poses se­ri­ous po­ten­tial ex­po­sure risks to those liv­ing nearby.

8. Drilling and frack­ing ac­tiv­i­ties can bring nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring ra­dioac­tive ma­te­ri­als to the sur­face.

(All of the above state­ments come directly from the re­port, from pages 17-30. There are more than this list, but the items here give an idea of the scope and breadth of the con­clu­sions the re­port’s au­thors have made.)

With data back­ing up each of these trends and with the ex­ten­sive doc­u­men­ta­tion on the dam­ag­ing health con­se­quences of be­ing near frack­ing ar­eas, it is no won­der that San­dra Ste­in­graber, a bi­ol­o­gist and one of the co-au­thors of the re­port, said in a re­cent in­ter­view with Rolling Stone, “Frack­ing is the worst thing I’ve ever seen.” In the same in­ter­view, she went on to say: “Those of us in the pub­lic health sec­tor started to re­al­ize years ago that there were po­ten­tial risks. Then the in­dus­try rolled out faster than we could do our sci­ence. Now we see those risks have turned into hu­man harms and peo­ple are get­ting sick ... And we in this field have a moral im­per­a­tive to raise the alarm.”

Frack­ing is a deadly at­tack on peo­ple and the global ecosys­tem. There are only two groups ben­e­fit­ing from its fur­ther ex­pan­sion in the world: the greedy fos­sil fuel in­dus­try and those who re­ceive their lob­by­ing dol­lars in state and fed­eral leg­is­la­tures. Frack­ing is a plague on the world that must be stopped be­fore fur­ther dam­age is caused.

Now is a good time for us to stop sup­port­ing frack­ing by re­duc­ing our us­age of oil and nat­u­ral gas and sup­port the devel­op­ment of a cul­ture that is not re­liant and dirty and dan­ger­ous fos­sil fu­els.

It may seem dif­fi­cult to break free from de­pen­dence on gas and oil but oth­ers are do­ing it.

So­lar and wind power are less ex­pen­sive than dirtry forms of en­ergy and vastly less ex­pen­sive when con­sid­er­ing the en­vi­ron­men­tal and health costs.

Over its life­time an elec­tric car is far less ex­pen­sive to own and op­er­ate than gas or diesel pow­ered ve­hi­cles.

Through dig­i­tal cur­ren­cies, the North Amer­ica Pro­cure­ment Coun­cil plans to fund the devel­op­ment of cli­mate-proof and car­bon-neg­a­tive com­mu­ni­ties where money is not re­quired for res­i­dents, ev­ery­one can walk to work, food is healthy and high-qual­ity health-care is freely avail­able.

We can choose to leave the mad­ness of frack­ing be­hind and live in a bet­ter way.

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