Annapolis, MD — Concerned by both the rapidly expanding evidence of harm and by the growing uncertainties caused by unconventional natural gas development and production, a number of health and advocacy organizations have announced support for a long-term moratorium or ban on drilling and fracking for natural gas in Maryland.
Earlier today, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that his administration will ban fracking in New York, heeding the strong recommendation from the public health officials in his administration that there is no scientific evidence showing that fracking can be done without risk to public health.
The coalition of health and advocacy organizations believes that Maryland should follow New York’s lead, as the science in Maryland is the same as the science in New York. Groups representing physicians, nurses, public health professionals and Maryland residents are calling for the legislative leadership to pass strong legislation that will implement a moratorium or ban on all drilling and fracking in the state.
“New York made the right decision. Science now confirms that unconventional natural gas development has the potential to cause both short-term and long-term health impacts, some of which may be irreversible,” said Dr. Gina Angiola, member of the Board of Directors of Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility.
Respiratory, skin and numerous other ailments have been documented in people living near fracking operations. Additional research is suggesting associations with birth defects, low birth weight babies, and higher infant mortality rates. Given the nature of the chemicals used in the fracking process, we may see increases in cancers, neurologic diseases, and developmental disorders in coming years, but it will take time for these effects to show up.
“There are now hundreds of peer-reviewed studies showing harm to our health, air and water from fracking,” said Katie Huffling, RN, CNM director of programs for the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments. “As a nurse-midwife, I am deeply concerned about the elevated risks of birth defects and low birth weight babies seen in families near fracking sites. We need to protect our future generations and not begin fracking in Maryland.”
The groups’ call to keep fracking from coming into the state is supported by two new, independent summations released last week by health professionals and scientists explaining the state of the science on the risks and harms of shale gas development and fracking.
Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy released a statistical evaluation of the approximately 400 peer-reviewed studies to date on the impacts of shale gas development. Among the key findings:
- 96 percent of all papers published on health impacts indicate potential risks or adverse health outcomes.
- 87 percent of original research studies published on health outcomes indicate potential risks or adverse health outcomes.
- 95 percent of all original research studies on air quality indicate elevated concentrations of air pollutants.
- 72 percent of original research studies on water quality indicate potential, positive association, or actual incidence of water contamination.
- 73 percent of all available scientific peer-reviewed papers have been published in the past 24 months, with a current average of one paper published each day.
The Concerned Health Professionals of New York released an updated compendium of scientific, medical and media findings which presents concise summations of key information in a manner accessible and useful to policymakers, journalists, researchers, and the general public. Like the PSE statistical analysis, the CHPNY compendium finds overwhelming evidence for risks and harms to public health from fracking.
“Maryland’s natural gas reserves have been present for millions of years,” said Tim Whitehouse, executive director of Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility. “They won’t disappear anytime soon. We believe that Maryland should follow a precautionary approach and wait for further developments in the science before making decisions that could put the health and well being of its residents in jeopardy.”
“The idea that there is such a thing as safe fracking is a fallacy,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “The scientific evidence increasingly shows that fracking has inherent risks that cannot be regulated away. Marylanders need only look at the legacy of our neighbors in Pennsylvania to see what can happen when things go wrong. Maryland leaders should follow New York’s lead and take action now to protect the health and safety of residents by keeping fracking out of the state.”
Tim Whitehouse, Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility, 240-246-4492, [email protected]