As a retired Registered Nurse, I am very interested in the health aspects of fracking pollution. I recently had an encounter that was a new experience for me. It made me sad, glad, proud and angry. Fighting this fossil fuel industry is certainly an emotional experience!
I was handed a sheaf of papers that contained copies of studies, published by the Endocrine Society, documenting the implications of air pollution emitted by fracking operations. These studies reported on the horrible effects that will likely result from pollution related to fracking, especially harming those innocent families living near wells, suffering from exposure to not just one pollutant, but from the cumulative effect of several toxins. (More about this study later in the article.)
Why did these papers come to me? The person who originally printed them off is an MD. This physician is afraid of job loss if they speak out. The MD gave the material to a friend asking how they can get it to out others, then that person gave it to another friend asking how they could help, and the information found its way to me.
Angry: when and how did this industry become so powerful that people I always considered powerful (physicians) are afraid to speak out in a country where we are guaranteed freedom of speech? Sad: that this country no longer represents freedom to many of us. Glad: this physician is continuing to reach out in any way possible, as are many other healthcare providers, to get information out to us. Proud: That Coloradans Against Fracking is working at that grassroots level of person-to-person contact, and even very powerful people and groups can’t stop us!
Now, back to the information this physician wants you to know. In December, 2013, a peer-reviewed study of water and soil samples taken from Garfield County, Colorado drilling sites found anti-estrogenic, and anti-androgenic compounds at higher levels than those found at non-drilling sites both in Colorado and Missouri. The article goes on to cite the known health consequences of exposure to these chemicals: “respiratory, gastrointestinal, dermatologic, neurologic, immunologic, endocrine, reproductive, and other negative health outcomes in humans, pets, livestock, and wildlife species.” On one of the sites tested, the rancher had to move cattle operations from the area because the animals no longer produced live offspring.
Then in June 2014, the Endocrine Society put out a press release with the title: Hormone-disrupting activity of fracking chemicals worse than initially found. “Many chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, can disrupt not only the human body’s reproductive hormones but also the glucocorticoid and thyroid hormone receptors, which are necessary to maintain good health, a new study finds.”
I realize that some of these words and concepts may be difficult if you aren’t familiar with medical terminology and studies. In a nutshell: these chemicals can interfere with every body system and these chemicals were found in soil and water in Garfield County, including the Colorado River. These toxins can cause cancers, birth defects, neurological disorders, and metabolic issues. Remember, the oil and gas industry is exempt from key provisions of the federal Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and other laws that Americans depend on for their health and safety.
It is important to realize that other people in the health care field are speaking out. The Concerned Health Professionals of New York released an excellent compendium of all the research last year, (and it became a key factor in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to ban fracking in New York). One statement from the accompanying review of the studies haunts me: ““This is a significant public health risk,” said lead author David O. Carpenter, MD, “Cancer has a long latency, so you’re not seeing an elevation in cancer in these communities. But five, 10, 15 years from now, elevation in cancer is almost certain to happen.”” I urge you to read at least the executive summary of this paper.
There are also local people speaking out where ever they can to say, “Enough! Stop poisoning us!” One such person is Benita from Colorado’s Western Slope, who has spoken out bravely at many venues. An example of her message from 2011 is at this link. We are saying, “Please don’t allow this. Our children and grandchildren deserve better.” Please join Coloradans Against Fracking in getting this important message out. Reach out to us here if you want more information.