Concerned health professionals of New York release fracking compendium

The Concerned Health Professionals of New York just released a compendium that compiles a significant body of scientific, medical and journalistic findings that highlight the experienced health risks associated with the process of Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction.

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One of the most thorough reports of its kind, the compendium draws upon scientific evidence and experience from across the globe, including USA, Canada and Australia, where Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction has been most predominant, drawing upon information provided by medical journals such as The Lancet, the British Medical Journal and the Medical Journal of Australia.

Topics covered by the compendium include:

  • Air Contamination
  • Water Contamination
  • Engineering Problems
  • Radioactive releases
  • Occupational Health and Safety Hazards
  • Noise pollution, light pollution and stress
  • Earthquakes and Seismic Activity
  • Abandoned wells
  • Flood risks
  • Threats to Agriculture and soil quality
  • Threats to the Climate
  • Inaccurate job claims, increased crime
  • Inflated oil and gas reserves
  • Medical and scientific calls for more study

A compilation of studies and findings from around the globe, the compendium provides irrefutable evidence of the risks, harms, and associated negative trends demonstrated by the process of Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction, a process earmarked for County Fermanagh.

To read the compendium in full, click here.

Medical journal of australia denounces safety of fracking

On March 2014 the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) published a report entitled: “Harms unknown: health uncertainties cast doubt on the role of unconventional gas in Australia’s energy future.”

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In the report the MJA warn of the scientific research already undertaken that highlights the health risks that Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction brings to communities stating:

Fears over the potential health implications of hydraulic fracturing led over 100 medical practitioners to request the Obama administration to halt the construction of new liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals on the basis that “[t]here is a growing body of evidence that unconventional natural gas extraction from shale … may be associated with adverse health risks through exposure to polluted air, water, and soil”. There are also environmental, social and psychological factors that have more indirect effects on health, and important social justice implications arising from the distribution of health burdens.
While there is a dearth of conclusive evidence about the health and environmental effects of fracturing, there is an emerging body of evidence on the areas of greatest potential risk and uncertainty in regards to water, air and social pathways. When taken into consideration along with concerns about the level of fugitive emissions and the potential effect on the development of renewable energy, these health concerns make unconventional gas a doubtful saviour for Australia’s energy needs.

Furthermore, MJA continue by warning that despite attempts to improve the safety of the overall process of Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction, the process itself cannot be made safe:

While the risk of well casing failure, spills and other accidents cannot be dismissed,these can be mitigated (though not removed entirely) by proper regulation and the move towards “safer” fracturing fluids. However, although any exposure would likely be to heavily diluted chemicals, the toxicological effects of some chemicals in their dilute form are not well understood. In particular, chemicals affecting the endocrine system — such as ethoxylated 4-nonylphenol, which has been used in Australian operations6 — can affect humans at extremely low quantities.

This sentiment has already been echoed by world respected medical journals the British Medical Journal, and the Lancet.

The MJA also draw attention to an all too often overlooked aspect of the process – air pollution:

Unconventional gas extraction is responsible for air pollution from diesel fumes from infrastructure development and stationary equipment, gas processing, venting and flaring. Fugitive methane emissions can catalyse development of ground level ozone and combine with PM to form smog, both of which contribute to respiratory disease, among other health effects, and damage to crops — gas- field haze is a well known effect in the US, with such pollution capable of travelling substantial distances. Shale gas extraction can also involve the flaring or venting of “associated” gases, which can become hazardous air pollutants.

The report goes further, and highlights negative social impacts that can in turn bring detriment to human health, such as the increased cost of living, high levels of alcohol and drug use, mental health issues and violence.

In a damning condemnation of the social injustices brought about by Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction, the MJA state:

Inequity can be an indirect cause of ill health, and the development of unconventional gas resources threatens to distribute health burdens in an unfair way. Most of the potential health hazards are likely to be felt by groups such as the elderly, children and the poor because of their vulnerability to the hazards involved, those living in rural, agricultural and Indigenous communities because of the location of operations, and future generations — the same groups liable to bear significant costs of climate change — while the financial benefits will accrue to the predominantly foreign owners of the resources.

Before continuing with the real life threat that climate change will bring, a problem that will be exacerbated by methane emissions:

A further health issue raised by any proposed energy source is its contribution to climate change, which has the potential to reverse gains in global health, for example by exacerbating illnesses and causing deaths through undernutrition, extreme weather conditions and disease.

In conclusion, as a result of negative implications both social and environmental the MJA warn against Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction as a means to secure energy for the future of Australia:

It is clear that Australia must quickly move beyond its reliance on coal for health and environmental reasons. However, when taking into consideration the uncertainties over health risks, the unfavourable comparisons with other energy options, the climate risks associated with fugitive emissions, the moral obligations Australia faces as a gas exporter, the potential displacement of renewables and doubts raised over the claim that gas will prove to be a cheap energy option, the scale is firmly tipped against the further development of unconventional gas.

The MJA report has added to a long list of reports which warn against the risks associated with Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction, a process which is earmarked for County Fermanagh.

Our citizens must ask themselves, in the face of mounting scientific evidence, that once the process arrives within our county’s borders, how can we expect to avoid the social, environmental and economic costs incurred, knowing that communities world wide have failed to avoid them for themselves.

If you wish to read the MJA report in full, click here.

Former state health employees forced silent on fracking

It has been reported by news outlet NPR that former Pennsylvania State Health employees were instructed to ignore enquiries from the public in relation to the negative health effects related to unconventional shale gas development.

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Staff were instructed, that in the event of a member of the public calling in regards to a shale gas related ailment, the enquiry was to be forwarded to a supervisor who would handle the case from there on in. However, many members of the public would phone bad, annoyed that they had received no follow up.

There is also evidence to suggest that the problem occurs in other states outside of Pennsylvania.

NPR reports:

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Two retirees from the Pennsylvania Department of Health say its employees were silenced on the issue of Marcellus Shale drilling.

One veteran employee says she was instructed not to return phone calls from residents who expressed health concerns about natural gas development.

“We were absolutely not allowed to talk to them,” said Tammi Stuck, who worked as a community health nurse in Fayette County for nearly 36 years.

Another retired employee, Marshall P. Deasy III, confirmed that.

Deasy, a former program specialist with the Bureau of Epidemiology, said the department also began requiring field staff to get permission to attend any meetings outside the department. This happened, he said, after an agency consultant made comments about drilling at a community meeting.

In the more than 20 years he worked for the department, Deasy said, “community health wasn’t told to be silent on any other topic that I can think of.”

Companies have drilled more than 6,000 wells into Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale over the last six years, making it the fastest-growing state for natural gas production in America.

Amid the record-breaking development, public health advocates have expressed concern that Pennsylvania has not funded research to examine the potential health impacts of the shale boom.

Doctors have said that some people who live near natural gas development sites – including well pads and compressor stations – have suffered from skin rashes, nausea, nosebleeds and other ailments.

To read the investigative report in full, click here.

Beginner’s guide to fracking: 5 fracking and health

Serious Public Health concerns are beginning to be raised following recent medical research and reports into unconventional shale gas extraction.

The plan for Fermanagh: up to 60 multi well pads with up to 24 wells per pad. Each pad would be 6.5 acres in size and located approximately 1 mile apart. 40,000 acres of development, and may extend up to three times this size.

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Experience from around the world has shown that fracking brings with it a very real risk of contamination of soil, water and air borne contamination. The full extent of future potential health problems caused by contamination from fracked wells is still unknown.

A 2012 study from America’s Cornell University, ‘Impacts of Gas Drilling on Human and Animal Health’, described fracking as “an uncontrolled health experiment on an enormous scale”. Many diseases caused by contamination have a lag time of up to twenty years before people become ill. By then it is too late, you cannot reverse the effects of contamination on peoples health.

Even if the company manages to do ‘chemical free’ fracking, the flow back fluid which comes back up will be contaminated by oil and gas derivatives and heavy metals washes out from fractured rock. This means that millions of gallons of toxic fluid will come back up each well. This flow back fluid will contain varying amounts of the following chemicals with the associated health risks:

– BENZENE: Leukemia, cancers and neural tube defects (spina bifida)
– MERCURY: Brain and kidney damage and effects unborn children.
– ARSENIC: Cancer
– ETHYL-BENZENE: Respiratory disease, fatigue and headaches.
– TOLUENE: Birth defects and central nervous system damage.
– VOC’s: Endocrine disrupters

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Recent medical reports and research into fracking state:
– 25% of the chemicals used could cause cancer and mutations, 37% could upset the endocrine system, 40-50% could affect the nervous, immune and cardiovascular systems, and 90% could affect the skin, eyes and respiratory system. [Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, 2012]
– Silicosis lung damage from the airborne silica dust used in frack sand. [Esswein,2012]
– Increased risk of ill health, cancer and non-cancer, in people living near frack pads. [Air pollution control division, Colorado Department of public health, 2008]
– Irreversible lung damage caused by ground level ozone. This is produced when fugitive methane gases combine with diesel fumes of fracking machinery. (In Fermanagh, this ‘smog’ along with other air pollution from fracking will be blown over the rest of the county by thE prevailing westerly wind.) [The Endocrine Disruption Index, 2012]
– Sudden death, slow death, reproductive problems and nerve diseases have been shown in twenty four different fracking incidents involving hundreds of farm animals over six states in USA; mostly related to exposure from flowback fluid. Some of these animals are believed to have ended up in the human food chain. [Bamburger and Oswald, 2012]

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Noise pollution from both lorries on the road and heavy site machinery will be a major problem in a rural county like Fermanagh, where frack pads are likely to be close to houses. The noise together with lights on around frack sites all night, will be a hinderance to sleep and can impact on both physical and mental health and well-being.

Short term industrialisation of rural areas results in –
– a ‘boom and bust’ economy that impacts negatively on public health.
– Social community upheaval creating inequality and resulting in increased mental health problems, domestic violence, crime, drug/alcohol abuse.

The Precautionary Principle must apply. Our Health is our real Wealth.
Full health impact assessments are required, not just environmental impact assessments.

To download this information as a printable pdf, please visit our flyers page.

New York state extend fracking moratorium until 2017

The New York State Assembly has provided a Bill that extends their current moratorium for three more years, until the year 2017.

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The Assembly passed a three-year, state wide moratorium of oil and natural gas drilling permits by an overwhelming 89-to-34 count to allow for more time to study the environmental and health  impact of the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, a horizontal drilling process used to extract natural gas and oil, and its potential to contaminate drinking water supplies and harm the environment.

New York state has been under a fracking moratorium since 2008, with the most recent one passing in 2013, that would have expired in May 2015.

The news was announced by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and Environmental Conservation Committee Chair Robert Sweeney on 16th June.

“We have heard from thousands of residents across the state about many issues associated with hydrofracking, and prudent leadership demands that we take our time to address all these concerns,” said Silver. “We do not need to rush into this. The natural gas deposits within the Marcellus Shale are not going to go anywhere. Before hydrofracking can be authorized, we need the best scientific information available to help us make informed decisions that will not compromise the safety of our drinking water, public health and the environment.”

“These energy resources found in our state have the potential to provide great economic benefit to New Yorkers, but we cannot let that blind us from thoroughly looking into and investigating hydrofracking’s impact on our environment and human health,” said Sweeney. “I call on the Senate to pass this bill so there will be time for a comprehensive review of all the available information well before this process gets the green light.”

new york

Carrying a total of 63 sponsors including Sweeney and Silver, the bill (A.5424-B) suspends the issuance of drilling permits to ensure the legislature has adequate time to review its impact on public health and the environment via multiple toxic and hazardous air and water contaminants, including a number of known or suspected carcinogens.

The Bill also states that:

– There shall be no horizontal natural gas or oil drilling

– no high-volume hydraulic fracturing shall be conducted

– the department of environmental conservation shall issue no permits for well drilling of oil or natural gas that will involve use of horizontal or high volume hydraulic fracturing.

To view the Bill, click here.

RSPB warns Northern Ireland not to push ahead with fracking

The RSPB, the largest conservation charity in Europe, has joined with other concerned organisations to warn the Northern Ireland Executive of the dangers of fracking.  They say:

‘Conservation charity the RSPB and two other leading environmental organisations are warning the Northern Ireland Executive not to push ahead with ‘fracking’ (a controversial method to extract gas) until sufficient evidence shows that it is safe to do so.

In County Fermanagh, the idyllic surroundings for the G8 summit, a licence has already been issued to explore for shale gas, but it is still unclear what the economic, social and environmental impact will be.

The RSPB, Friends of the Earth (FOE) and the Chartered Institute for Environmental Health (CIEH) are deeply concerned about the environmental and health risks posed by ‘fracking’. The group believe more research is needed to understand the extent and impact of fracking on this beautiful habitat. John Martin, RSPB, stated that “Shale gas exploration and extraction should only be allowed within a strict regulatory and policy framework that is fit for purpose, and in Northern Ireland this does not exist.” In addition, Mr Martin continued “we believe that an independent Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) should be required for all developments here. This has not been the case for other UK sites and problems have followed.”

Co Fermanagh is known for its excellent agricultural produce and wonderful natural heritage which attracts valuable spend from tourists travelling here from around the world. Much of the local economy has been built around this and as yet it is not known what impact fracking will have on these rich natural assets. Declan Alison, FOE stated “2050 is the cut-off date given by Tamboran, the company issued with the licence for exploration. No provision is given by the company on what will happen next but as temporary exploitation, shale gas is not an answer to economic uncertainty in the long term.”

A 2007 study commissioned on behalf of nine leading NGOs and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency found that economic activities relating to the environment contributed over half a billion to our local economy and the equivalent of over 32,000 jobs. “It would be foolish to threaten this already existing green economy in such uncertain times”, concluded Mr Alison.

The controversial method involves geological risks and can be responsible for triggering earthquakes as happened in Lancashire. Fermanagh has a unique geology which is rich in caves (map in annex): the group believe the seismic risk associated with fracking must be fully assessed as this could introduce unnecessary risks.

“Shale gas will also endanger NI’s ability to deliver on its climate change commitments within the UK Climate Act3 and move towards a green economy added Gary McFarlane of CIEH and Chair of Stop Climate Chaos NI. “Northern Ireland has some of the best features nature has to offer- wind, wave and tidal. These invaluable assets should be the future of the NI green economy and developing renewable energy could create thousands of new jobs”.

France, Bulgaria and South Africa have suspended the search for shale gas until research uncovers the potential long-term impacts on human health and the environment.’

 

Read the full statement with diagrams here, and see the accompanying map of the licence area, its water catchment and important nature conservation areas here.

Dr. O’Dolan and Mr. Poots

Following FFAN’s meeting with the Environment Minister on 5th September and subsequent correspondence, the FFAN Chair, Dr. Carroll O’Dolan, wrote to the Minister of Health, Mr. Edwin Poots.  He asked Mr Poots to ensure that the Department of Health be represented within the inter-departmental Shale Gas Forum, and to meet with FFAN to discuss the serious public health concerns arising out of fracking.

Mr. Poots replied (second page here), declining to meet FFAN at this time, but confirming that the Chief Environmental Health Officer had represented the Department at the first formal meeting of the Shale Gas Forum on 18th October.

More new research

Two more recent and reliable studies:

HOW ENVIRONMENTAL CONTAMINATION CAN IMPACT HUMAN HEALTH; THE ENDOCRINE SYSTEM IN PARTICULAR. Dr ADAM LAW. MD. { 2011 }.

NATURAL GAS: SHOULD FRACKING STOP? PROFESSOR R. HOWARTH & PROFESSOR T. INGRAFFEA.
PUBLISHED IN “NATURE” JOURNAL { 2011 }

 

Latest research

  The chair of FFAN, Dr Carroll O’Dolan, has put together this very useful list of the latest authoritative research available on the subject of fracking.

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1) TYNDALL CENTRE, UNIVERSITY of MANCHESTER.
SHALE GAS REPORT COMMISIONED BY THE CO-OPERATIVE BANK { 2011}

http://www.tyndall.ac.uk/publications/technical-report/2011/shale-gas-provisional-assessment-climate-change-and-environmental

2) U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY DRAFT REPORT INTO GROUND WATER CONTAMINATION IN WYOMING {2011}
“ EXPLANATION BEST FITTING THE DATA [IS THAT] CONSTITUENTS ASSOCIATED WITH HYDRAULIC FRACTURING HAVE BEEN RELEASED INTO THE WIND RIVER DRINKING WATER AQUIFER”
3) EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT: POLICY DOCUMENT {2011}
IMPACTS OF SHALE GAS AND SHALE OIL EXTRACTION ON THE ENVIRONMENT AND ON HUMAN HEALTH.
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY PAGE 9.
4) THE ENDOCRINE DISRUPTION INDEX, COLORADO.
REPORT – NATURAL GAS OPERATIONS FROM A PUBLIC HEALTH PERSPECTIVE { 2011}
www.endocrinedisruption.com ON HOME PAGE CLICK INTO THE REPORT.
5) DOCTORS FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AUSTRALIA INC. [ D E A ] http://www.dea.org.au
INQUIRY INTO COAL SEAM GAS { 2011 }

Fuelling Ireland’s public health problems

Fuelling Ireland’s public health problems — Irish Medical Times. (click on link to read the article in full)

“[F]ive issues can be identified that raise concerns about the impact of fracking on health.   Firstly, the process of fracking uses a wide variety of chemicals,  including friction reducers, surfactants, gelling agents, scale inhibitors, acids, corrosion inhibitors, antibacterial agents and clay stabilisers. Additional naturally occurring heavy metals and radioactive materials may also be mobilised from the rock during its fracture, including arsenic, cadmium, chromium, thorium and uranium and these may also interact with the chemicals in the fluid.

In addition, the possibility of accidental release of chemicals and gases through fire, vandalism, or spills and leaks from poor practices is an ongoing risk.

Toxic mud and fluid by-products from the drilling and fracking, as well as spills of oil and gas wastes, are not uncommon. The health impact of such chemicals depends on factors such as the toxicity, dose, route and duration of exposure, and the vulnerability of the people being affected…

Secondly, air may also be contaminated by volatile chemicals released during drilling (combustion from machinery and transport) and from other operations, during methane separation or by evaporation from holding ponds. Methane gas is also explosive….

Thirdly, fracking requires substantial amounts of water, 1.5 million gallons per well …  A shortage of water would pose considerable threats to health and well-being of people living in the area. The company proposes using some of the waste water for fracking. However, this will very possibly involve the burning off some of the toxic residues leading to additional air pollution, as well as storage difficulties.

Fourthly, the soil may be contaminated by drilling sludge, which may contain drilling mud, hydrocarbons, radioactive material and heavy metals. This would have serious consequences for grasslands used for leisure or agriculture purposes. The consumption of meat and or milk from animals grazing on such land would also give rise for concern.

Finally, the British Geological Survey states that it is well established that fluid injections can cause small earthquakes and fracking has been associated with two small quakes near Blackpool.

It is widely recognised that we need to reduce our emissions of greenhouse gasses. The adoption of fracking is a step away from a solution to the problem of climate change. We must leave any remnants of fossil fuel in the ground, instead of seeking ever more expensive and environmentally destructive methods of extracting them. … In the interests of public health, we must not allow fracking in Ireland.

Any tragedy is upsetting; an avoidable tragedy is all the more so.”

(Dr. Elizabeth Cullen)