Two leading physicians groups said last week the U.S. should put a halt to hydraulic fracturing (fracking) drilling for natural gas and oil, specifically in populated areas, until studies are completed to determine its impact on public health.
Bloomberg reports officials with the National Center for Environmental Health and Mid-Atlantic Center for Children’s Health and the Environment called for the moratorium on fracking drilling at a conference last week in Washington, D.C. The groups, comprised mostly of physicians, said there are too many unknown factors associated with fracking drilling despite it being a means of energy production in the country for decades.
A recent boom in fracking drilling was allowed by several loopholes in federal energy legislation. Key provisions in federal legislation allow companies which use fracking to get natural gas or oil from underground shale and rock to do so without disclosing some of the most toxic chemicals used in the process.
The physicians with the groups attending the conference last week said it’s very likely these chemicals used in the fracking process are impacting the health of people living nearest to active fracking wells. They believe the U.S. government should force natural gas companies to establish a fund which would sponsor independent studies on the impact of fracking drilling, particularly on human health.
Numerous studies have been published recently on the impact of fracking, especially as its popularity increases across the country. Thousands of wells have been drilled in recent years in the Mid Atlantic region with little regard to the health of those living nearby and more wells are proposed in areas near water sources which supply fresh water to millions of people in that region.
The problem with studies which point to the dangers of fracking is they are quickly countered by industry-funded studies countering those arguments. Further, the natural gas and oil industries have one of the strongest lobbies on Capitol Hill, causing delays in any regulations against fracking drilling. The Environmental Protection Agency has delayed the release of a comprehensive study on fracking drilling several times over the past year, believed to be a result of that lobbying effort. Leading companies which use fracking drilling on a daily basis across the country have attempted to deflect calls for stronger regulations by disclosing some of the chemicals used in the process but each time fail to fully disclose the most toxic chemicals used.
Despite the lack of government-funded studies which point to the dangers of fracking drilling, there is ample evidence of its impact. Across the country, those living closest to fracking wells believe it is the cause of water and air pollution, in some cases entirely contaminating a private underground water well. People living within a mile of an active fracking well believe toxic levels of methane gas, benzene, radioactive materials and other harmful toxins are being caused by the drilling.
Some residents closest to fracking wells have been forced to find alternative sources of fresh water and many believe the drilling activity has caused them to suffer from health side effects like eye and skin irritations and breathing trouble.
Federal tests have recently confirmed that fracking has likely caused water contamination near a Wyoming community which has been dealing with active wells for a few decades but those tests have not produced any new regulations or any moves from Washington to put an end to the drilling.