Philadelphia, Pa. – The advocacy group Food & Water Watch released today an analysis of reams of documents it obtained from the state of Pennsylvania that clearly demonstrate an ongoing pattern of alarming inadequacy and negligence by the state Dept. of Health (DOH) in its response to fracking-related health complaints from state residents. After a 2014 StateImpact Pennsylvania report revealing that DOH health workers were instructed to identify key fracking “buzzwords,” and told not to respond to fracking-related health complaints, Food & Water Watch requested and eventually received the DOH natural gas drilling log of health complaints. The logs demonstrate that state residents are regularly reporting alarming health concerns, and that state agencies have failed to adequately respond and address these health problems from drilling and fracking.
Common symptoms reported in the logs include breathing difficulty, asthma, throat and nose irritation, noxious odors, skin problems, and abdominal issues. Residents also reported headaches nosebleeds, eye irritation, hair loss and cancer. DOH responses to these complaints did not adequately address the seriousness of the reported symptoms. Many residents, after calling DOH, were simply referred to other state agencies and/or told to have their air or water tested.
“This detailed look inside the Department of Health brings into stark relief what we’ve known for years – that Pennsylvanians are getting sick from drilling and fracking, and the state has been grossly negligent in protecting residents. Governor Wolf should break this legacy by instituting an immediate halt on any new fracking in the state,” said Sam Bernhardt, senior state organizer at Food & Water Watch in Philadelphia.
Scott Edwards, co-director of the Food and Water Justice program at Food & Water Watch added, “We fought for almost a year and with multiple administrations for these documents. Now we know why. These documents display the inadequacy and negligence of Department responses to serious health complaints from people who deserve better protection from irresponsible fracking industries. We will continue, through all the legal and grassroots organizing tactics at our disposal, to uncover the immense body of evidence of state negligence to the impacts of fracking hinted at in these documents.”
“My family and I were being made sick by fracking 500 feet from our house, so I went to Pennsylvania Department of Health for help. Instead, the agency tried to pass off my request to other agencies, which I knew were already uncooperative, and recommended prohibitively expensive tests. The agency’s account of my case as described in these logs is inaccurate at several junctures,” said Linda Headley, a Fayette County resident whose fracking-related health complaint was recorded in the documents received by Food & Water Watch.
“Both the DOH and the DEP lacked the resources and staff to follow up, thus relying on the limited time and capacity of others to formulate responses when a serious examination of repeated health damage was brought to them. Instead the public was directed on fruitless and often expensive air and water testing for unknown compounds or sent physicians who had limited ability to obtain information necessary to help the patients experiencing the exposures,” said David R. Brown, ScD, a public health toxicologist and the director of public health toxicology at Environment and Human Health, Inc. “The victims have become identified as the problem, and trust in government fairness has been lost. Trust in these agencies cannot be restored to this generation.”
As the analysis of the health complaint logs notes, the symptoms residents reported to the DOH are consistent with concerns identified in a range of scientific and public health assessments of the potential health impacts of drilling and fracking. For instance, many peer-reviewed papers point to the dangers of oil pollution from drilling and fracking, and the likelihood of respiratory and other health effects.
Contact: Seth Gladstone, [email protected], 347-778-2866