Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

1,000+ Health Care Professionals Call on President Obama to Halt Fracking

Energy
1,000+ Health Care Professionals Call on President Obama to Halt Fracking

Today, Environment America Research & Policy Center and its state affiliates delivered letters from more than 1,000 doctors, nurses and other health professionals to President Obama and state decision-makers asserting that fracking should be stopped, given the overwhelming threats to public health.

The letters come as public awareness of the health and environmental impacts of fracking is on the rise. For example, in a peer-reviewed study published last month, researchers found an increased rate of birth defects in babies born to mothers in Colorado who lived in close proximity to multiple oil and gas wells.

“Fracking is making people sick—period. Families from Pennsylvania to Colorado to North Dakota are already suffering from dangerous air pollution and water contamination caused by dirty drilling,” said Courtney Abrams, clean water program director for Environment America. “The time for action is now. And more than 1,000 doctors, nurses, and health professionals nationwide agree. This should serve as a wake up call for our decision-makers.”

Fracking is expanding rapidly across the country, and its effect on public health and the environment is increasingly taking its toll. There is a growing number of documented cases of individuals suffering acute and chronic health effects while living near fracking operations—including nausea, rashes, dizziness, headaches and nose bleeds. Physicians reviewing medical records in Pennsylvania have called these illnesses “the tip of the iceberg” of fracking’s impact on health.

“Fracking harms health in many ways: releasing toxic gases, contaminating huge amounts of water, and contributing heavily to climate change. As a nation, we should develop clean renewable energy instead,” said Catherine Thomasson, MD and executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility. “Generating electricity shouldn’t be a source of illness; power shouldn’t be poisonous.”

Fracking operations have contaminated drinking water sources from Pennsylvania to New Mexico. Leaks and spills of fracking fluid, which often contain known carcinogens (e.g. benzene) and endocrine-disrupting chemicals, have polluted rivers and streams. Fracking wastewater—often laced with heavy metals (e.g. lead, arsenic) and radioactive materials (e.g. radon, uranium)—has leached from hundreds of waste pits into groundwater.

Air contaminants released from fracking operations include volatile organic compounds (VOCs); some are carcinogenic, and some damage the liver, kidneys and central nervous system. Researchers at the University of Colorado School of Public Health found that people living within a half-mile of gas fracking wells had a higher excess lifetime risk of developing cancer than people living farther away.

Despite these impacts, fracking is exempt from key provisions of the nation’s leading public health and environmental laws, including the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the law that regulates hazardous waste.

"As a nurse, I recognize prevention is a key component to health care—that's why research showing infants born near fracking sites have an increased risk of birth defects is cause for deep concern," said Katie Huffling, RN, MS, CNM and director of programs for the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments. "Closing these regulatory loopholes is key to preventing exposure to potentially toxic fracking chemicals and air pollutants."

While the Obama Administration is considering action on fracking’s impacts—they are conducting a study to assess the threats to drinking water and are considering rules to regulate fracking on public lands and control methane emissions from oil and gas operations—there is very little federal oversight of the practice. State regulations are widely varying and largely inadequate to protect public health. For example, a Pennsylvania law has even issued a “gag order” on physicians, nurses and other health care providers, which prohibits them from telling patients or other providers the chemicals that patients may have been exposed to.

In the letters delivered today, the health professionals state, “the prudent and precautionary response would be to stop fracking.” Some of the letters call on state decision-makers to ban fracking, while a national letter calls on President Obama to take two immediate steps to better protect families and communities:

  • Call for closing the loopholes that exempt fracking from the nation’s major environmental and public health laws
  • Declare sensitive areas—including places that provide drinking water for millions of Americans—“off-limits” to fracking

“Fracking is a public health emergency. The Obama Administration should act with all its authority to better protect communities. And given the onslaught of damage fracking has already caused, we should ban this dirty drilling practice,” concluded Abrams.

Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.

Air France airplanes parked at the Charles de Gaulle/Roissy airport on March 24, 2020. SAMSON / AFP via Getty Images

France moved one step closer this weekend to banning short-haul flights in an attempt to fight the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
A woman looks at a dead gray whale on the beach in the SF Bay area on May 23, 2019; a new spate of gray whales have been turning up dead near San Francisco. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Four gray whales have washed up dead near San Francisco within nine days, and at least one cause of death has been attributed to a ship strike.

Read More Show Less
Trending
A small tourist town has borne the brunt of a cyclone which swept across the West Australian coast. ABC News (Australia) / YouTube

Tropical Cyclone Seroja slammed into the Western Australian town of Kalbarri Sunday as a Category 3 storm before grinding a more-than 600-mile path across the country's Southwest.

Read More Show Less
A general view shows the remains of a dam along a river in Tapovan, India, on February 10, 2021, following a flash flood caused by a glacier break on February 7. Sajjad Hussain / AFP / Getty Images

By Rishika Pardikar

Search operations are still underway to find those declared missing following the Uttarakhand disaster on 7 February 2021.

Read More Show Less
Indigenous youth, organizers with the Dakota Access and Line 3 pipeline fights and climate activists march to the White House to protest against pipeline projects on April 1, 2021. Bill Clark / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

Indigenous leaders and climate campaigners on Friday blasted President Joe Biden's refusal to shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline during a court-ordered environmental review, which critics framed as a betrayal of his campaign promises to improve tribal relations and transition the country to clean energy.

Read More Show Less