New Studies Expose Public Health Risks From Fracking
As New York state ponders whether to lift its moratorium on fracking, in place since 2009, two new reports were released which compiled the results of numerous studies on its potential health and environmental impacts. The evidence was overwhelming, as the health care professionals and scientists involved urged Governor Andrew Cuomo to enact a three-to-five-year extension of the moratorium.
The studies offered a response to statements from Cuomo such as "You can have credentialed academics on both sides—one side says they have more credentialed experts than the other side" and “I’m not a scientist. Let the scientists decide. It’s very complicated, very controversial, academic studies come out all different ways. Let the experts decide.”
The experts have largely decided that evidence of risks to citizens and communities from fracking are compelling.
One study, released by PSE Healthy Energy, pointed out that, with the fracking boom still young, "research continues to lag behind the rapid scaling of shale gas development." It points to an enormous increase in the amount of scientific research and surge in peer-reviewed scientific papers in just the last two years. It reviewed about 400 of those papers.
"In fact, of all the available scientific peer-reviewed literature on the impacts of shale gas development approximately 73 percent has been published since January 1, 2013," said its report. "What this tells us is that the scientific community is only now beginning to understand the impacts of this industry on the environment and human populations. Hazards and risks have been identified, but many data gaps still persist. Importantly, there remains a dearth of quantitative epidemiology that assesses associations between risk factors and human health outcomes among populations."
The study says that "there is now a lot more known about the impacts of shale gas development than when New York's de facto moratorium went into effect" and provides what it calls "a cursory overview" of currently available studies. It suggested that despite that, the evidence is fairly compelling. It found that 96 percent of all papers published on health outcomes point to possible negative impacts, that 87 percent of original research studies on health outcomes show potential risks, that 95 percent of original research studies on air quality show elevated levels of air pollutants and that 72 percent of original studies on water quality show actual or potential contamination.
“Scientists are just now beginning to understand the health and environmental dimensions of shale gas development," said PSE Healthy Energy executive director Seth B.C. Shonkoff. "While the majority of studies published indicate that there are risks to human health, there are still very few epidemiological studies that evaluate or model actual health impacts. You don’t get what you expect, you get what you inspect, and it is wise for New York to continue to look before it leaps and wait for the information it needs to make an educated decision.”
The second study, an update of the Compendium of Scientific, Medical and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking by the Concerned Health Professionals of NY, similarly looks at results of numerous studies to arrive at its conclusions, exploring sixteen areas of potential harm from fracking.
"A significant body of evidence has emerged to demonstrate that these activities are inherently dangerous to people and their communities," it says. "Risks include adverse impacts on water, air, agriculture, public health and safety, property values, climate stability and economic vitality."
It too points to the dramatic increase in the amount of recent research into fracking impacts, saying that research is just catching up with the industry, and summarizes key studies. Given that ongoing increase, it says that it will update its compendium every six months.
“The longer we look at fracking, the more trouble we find," said Dr. Larysa Dyrszka, a co-founder of Concerned Health Professionals of NY. "There is no split debate within the scientific literature. Given the avalanche of recent studies showing inherent problems and harms of fracking, Governor Cuomo must enact a minimum three-to-five-year moratorium in order to protect the water and health of all New Yorkers.”
Coming on the heels of these two omnibus studies is another new study—PSE Healthy Energy estimated that one new study has been released each day in the last two years—from Environment New York, titled The Spreading Shadow of the Shale Gas Boom: Fracking's Growing Proximity to Day Cares, Schools and Hospitals. It estimates that in the Marcellus and Utica shale region which extends underneath New York, over 400 permits have been issued to drill within a mile of such facilities, with Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia already allowing fracking in the region and Maryland set to begin. Oil and gas companies have already applied for more than 270 well permits in New York, poised to begin drilling when and if the moratorium is lifted, and the study says that as many as 56,000 fracking wells could be drilled in the state.
“We have seen how dangerous gas drilling can be in other states—from harmful air and water pollution to fires, blowouts and explosions,” said Environment New York director Heather Leibowitz. “This report shows that if fracking is allowed into New York, our vulnerable populations could be exposed to unacceptable risks.”
“Governor Cuomo has announced that the state's fracking health review, on which he has said his decision hinges, will be completed before the end of the year,” she said. “However, we already have strong evidence that fracking threatens the health and safety of our children, elderly and infirm. We’re calling on our state officials to finally ban fracking, for the health and safety of our most vulnerable populations and all New Yorkers.”
"That hydrofracking could occur in close proximity to our schools, hospitals and daycare centers across New York State is horrendous,” said New York State Senator Tony Avella. “These sites house our most vulnerable populations and this report clearly illustrates the risk at which we would be putting those most deserving of our protection if we were to allow hydrofracking in New York."
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1. Stay Informed<p>A first order of business in pet evacuation planning is to understand and be ready for the possible threats in your area. Visit <a href="https://www.ready.gov/be-informed" target="_blank">Ready.gov</a> to learn more about preparing for potential disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. Then pay attention to related updates by tuning <a href="http://www.weather.gov/nwr/" target="_blank">NOAA Weather Radio</a> to your local emergency station or using the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/mobile-app" target="_blank">FEMA app</a> to get National Weather Service alerts.</p>
2. Ensure Your Pet is Easily Identifiable<p><span>Household pets, including indoor cats, should wear collars with ID tags that have your mobile phone number. </span><a href="https://www.avma.org/microchipping-animals-faq" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Microchipping</a><span> your pets will also improve your chances of reunion should you become separated. Be sure to add an emergency contact for friends or relatives outside your immediate area.</span></p><p>Additionally, use <a href="https://secure.aspca.org/take-action/order-your-pet-safety-pack" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">'animals inside' door/window stickers</a> to show rescue workers how many pets live there. (If you evacuate with your pets, quickly write "Evacuated" on the sticker so first responders don't waste time searching for them.)</p>
3. Make a Pet Evacuation Plan<p> "No family disaster plan is complete without including your pets and all of your animals," says veterinarian Heather Case in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9NRJkFKAm4" target="_blank">a video</a> produced by the American Veterinary Medical Association.</p><p>It's important to determine where to take your pet in the event of an emergency.</p><p>Red Cross shelters and many other emergency shelters allow only service animals. Ask your vet, local animal shelters, and emergency management officials for information on local and regional animal sheltering options.</p><p>For those with access to the rare shelter that allows pets, CDC offers <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/emergencies/pets-in-evacuation-centers.html" target="_blank">tips on what to expect</a> there, including potential health risks and hygiene best practices.</p><p>Beyond that, talk with family or friends outside the evacuation area about potentially hosting you and/or your pet if you're comfortable doing so. Search for pet-friendly hotel or boarding options along key evacuation routes.</p><p>If you have exotic pets or a mix of large and small animals, you may need to identify multiple locations to shelter them.</p><p>For other household pets like hamsters, snakes, and fish, the SPCA recommends that if they normally live in a cage, they should be transported in that cage. If the enclosure is too big to transport, however, transfer them to a smaller container temporarily. (More on that <a href="https://www.spcai.org/take-action/emergency-preparedness/evacuation-how-to-be-pet-prepared" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.)</p><p>For any pet, a key step is to establish who in your household will be the point person for gathering up pets and bringing their supplies. Keep in mind that you may not be home when disaster strikes, so come up with a Plan B. For example, you might form a buddy system with neighbors with pets, or coordinate with a trusted pet sitter.</p>
4. Prepare a Pet Evacuation Kit<p>Like the emergency preparedness kit you'd prepare for humans, assemble basic survival items for your pets in a sturdy, easy-to-grab container. Items should include:</p><ul><li>Water, food, and medicine to last a week or two;</li><li>Water, food bowls, and a can opener if packing wet food;</li><li>Litter supplies for cats (a shoebox lined with a plastic bag and litter may work);</li><li>Leashes, harnesses, or vehicle restraints if applicable;</li><li>A <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/pet-first-aid-supplies-checklist" target="_blank">pet first aid kit</a>;</li><li>A sturdy carrier or crate for each cat or dog. In addition to easing transport, these may serve as your pet's most familiar or safe space in an unfamiliar environment;</li><li>A favorite toy and/or blanket;</li><li>If your pet is prone to anxiety or stress, the American Kennel Club suggests adding <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stress-relieving items</a> like an anxiety vest or calming sprays.</li></ul><p>In the not-unlikely event that you and your pet have to shelter in different places, your kit should also include:</p><ul><li>Detailed information including contact information for you, your vet, and other emergency contacts;</li><li>A list with phone numbers and addresses of potential destinations, including pet-friendly hotels and emergency boarding facilities near your planned evacuation routes, plus friends or relatives in other areas who might be willing to host you or your pet;</li><li>Medical information including vaccine records and a current rabies vaccination tag;</li><li>Feeding notes including portions and sizes in case you need to leave your pet in someone else's care;</li><li>A photo of you and your pet for identification purposes.</li></ul>
5. Be Ready to Evacuate at Any Time<p>It's always wise to be prepared, but stay especially vigilant in high-risk periods during fire or hurricane season. Practice evacuating at different times of day. Make sure your grab-and-go kit is up to date and in a convenient location, and keep leashes and carriers by the exit door. You might even stow a thick pillowcase under your bed for middle-of-the-night, dash-out emergencies when you don't have time to coax an anxious pet into a carrier. If forecasters warn of potential wildfire, a hurricane, or other dangerous conditions, bring outdoor pets inside so you can keep a close eye on them.</p><p>As with any emergency, the key is to be prepared. As the American Kennel Club points out, "If you panic, it will agitate your dog. Therefore, <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pet disaster preparedness</a> will not only reduce your anxiety but will help reduce your pet's anxiety too."</p>
Evacuating Horses and Other Farm Animals<p>The same basic principles apply for evacuating horses and most other livestock. Provide each with some form of identification. Ensure that adequate food, water, and medicine are available. And develop a clear plan on where to go and how to get there.</p><p>Sheltering and transporting farm animals requires careful coordination, from identifying potential shelter space at fairgrounds, racetracks, or pastures, to ensuring enough space is available in vehicles and trailers – not to mention handlers and drivers on hand to support the effort.</p><p>For most farm animals, the Red Cross advises that you consider precautionary evacuation when a threat seems imminent but evacuation orders haven't yet been announced. The American Veterinary Medical Association has <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/large-animals-and-livestock-disasters" target="_blank">more information</a>.</p>
Bottom Line: If You Need to Evacuate, So Do Your Pets<p>As the Humane Society warns, pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost, or killed. Plan ahead to make sure you can safely evacuate your entire household – furry members included.</p>
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