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4 Horrifying Dangers of Fracking

A group of health professionals is working to make sure the state thoroughly investigates the impacts of fracking on public health.

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4. The lack of accurate health data gathering

"A pall of ignorance hangs over fracking," says biologist Sandra Steingraber. "Emissions data, monitoring data, exposure data--these are the things you need in order to judge health effects, and where are they?”

They are largely absent due to the state governments which, like Pennsylvania, welcome fracking, but often fail to ascertain what happens to public health afterward. For example, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) neither adequately monitors nor collects health data. According to many PA citizen groups, it is singularly unresponsive to citizen’s reports, which are neither noted nor investigated until they have been personally reviewed by the governor, who understandably is too busy to get to them.

When local water supplies become contaminated in the aftermath of fracking, many citizens are forced to sign non-disclosure agreements in order to receive trucked-in water from the gas companies. Finally, as health problems in PA communities have emerged, the PA legislature attempted (so far unsuccessfully) to instate Act 13, an ALEC model bill that actually prohibits physicians from disclosing to patients and communities when fracking chemicals appear in people’s bloodstreams.

Unless overcome, ultimately, all of the above could result in a higher incidence of disease.

5. Increased health care costs

Increase costs can be projected for New York, based on increased costs incurred in other states. According to the same presentation on the Health Professionals Web site these include:

Costs related to acute effects from hydrofracking operations include doctor visits, laboratory tests, medications, emergency room visits and hospitalization due to acute medical disorders,acute exacerbations of existing chronic diseases (asthma, chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD), congestive heart disease, exposure to radioactive materials, ingestion of contaminated water, inhalation of contaminated air, traffic accidents involving heavy duty trucks,  and trauma from on-site accidents.

Where Does the NY State Health Review Stand?

The overriding socio-political context of “if I don’t look for it, it’s not there” makes the NY DOH Health Impact Assessment (HIA) an important milestone not only for New York but for the nation as a whole. Staffed with bona fide health experts in the last two weeks, the NY HIA is the first systemic look at across-the-board health effects to be undertaken by any governmental body at the federal state or local level.

But unfortunately, Governor Cuomo’s recent decision to extend the current proposed guidelines (called the SGEIS) for 90 days and invite public comment soon – before the health review is complete—undermines the entire process, experts say.

"How can the state of New York ask three outstanding public health experts to evaluate the many risks of fracking -- radiation, diesel exhaust, silica dust, traffic noise, toxic spills -- and give them a few weeks to do the job? said David O. Carpenter. "It's ridiculous."

“Issuing (the guidelines) prematurely undermines the reviews altogether,” agrees attorney Kate Sinding of the Natural Resources Defense Council. According to Sinding, “Delivering a set of unfinished revised rules – ones that don’t reflect the results of the ongoing health and environmental reviews” means that the rules won’t contain any way to address any health risks identified by the health expert reviewers.

Instead, Sinding urges that the governor “take the time necessary to get this right. Rushing ahead with fracking now – with health and environmental reviews still pending – would be a foolish and irresponsible move.”

Alison Rose Levy @alisonroselevy writes on health, food and the environment. Her website is and her weekly radio program on Progressive Radio is Connect the Dots.

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