The influence of companies using hydraulic fracturing (fracking) natural gas drilling has extended past lawmakers and environmental regulators. Now, even your doctor could be on their side.
According to a Mother Jones magazine report, physicians in Pennsylvania are governed by a new law which prohibits them from discussing with patients their exposure to certain chemicals used in the fracking process. Doctors, the report indicates, can be given a full disclosure of the chemicals used in the fracking process upon their request as they attempt to diagnose and treat patients they believe may be suffering from the effects of exposure. However, doctors are prohibited by a “gag order” in that law from discussing the full details of that report they get from a fracking company with their patients.
This is just another example of the roadblocks faced by the public in getting all the answers to the mysteries behind fracking and another example of the influence of these multi-billion dollar companies. Doctors, if they felt compelled to discuss with their patients the information they discovered from their requests, would likely face lawsuits from those energy companies that could put physicians out of business. The Pennsylvania law is also another sign that the state at the epicenter of the recent fracking boom is working more on the side of those energy companies and not the public which elected them.
The public and numerous state governments (outside of Pennsylvania) have been at loggerheads with the fracking industry over the disclosure of all the chemicals used in the controversial drilling process. Full safety reviews of the fracking process have stalled without that full disclosure from the industry. Additionally, those who believe fracking has led to problems with their water wells or with their health need that full disclosure from fracking companies to draw connections between their concerns and the drilling process.
Fracking employs the use of hundreds of thousands of gallons of fresh water, sand, and a mix of more than 600 chemicals. It is about 60 of those chemicals which have drawn the ire of those opposed to fracking drilling as they’re the ones fracking companies won’t disclose. It is believed some of those chemicals are benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene. Thousands of wells have been opened in Pennsylvania and as more are opened, the likelihood they’ll impact the health and natural resources of more residents in the state increases.
In just a few years of heavy drilling activity in Pennsylvania, specifically, residents living closest to active fracking wells believe the drilling has led to contamination of their water wells with methane gas, benzene, and other toxins. Residents have also complained about breathing problems and skin and eye irritations they blame on the air pollution created by nearby fracking wells.
Under the new Pennsylvania law, if a person goes to the doctor with symptoms they believe is related to fracking drilling near their home, the doctor can request and receive information about the chemicals that patient has likely been exposed to, but the doctor may not discuss those findings with the patient. The director of PennEnvironment, a leading public health advocacy group in Pennsylvania told Mother Jones, “This just stiles another way the public could have access to information from experts.”