Concerned Health Professionals of Maryland and other groups sent this letter to Governor Larry Hogan summarizing a new report, Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking, Third Edition. The report, compiled by Concerned Health Professionals of New York and Physicians for Social Responsibility, found that drinking water contamination from drilling and fracking-related activities has now been definitively documented; dangerous levels of air pollution are being documented, including in people’s homes, at levels known to have adverse health effects; negative health outcomes are now appearing in the medical literature with strong associations to drilling and fracking operations; occupational health and safety risks are significant and likely under-reported; and that growing evidence demonstrates that regulations are simply not capable of preventing harm.
Baltimore, MD — Researchers at John’s Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health published a new study in the premier public health journal Epidemiology linking birth outcomes and proximity to drilling and fracking operations during pregnancy. The analysis included more than 9,000 pregnancies in the heavily fracked state of Pennsylvania. The study found that preterm births were 40 percent higher among women living in areas with intense drilling and fracking operations compared to women who did not live near drilling and fracking. Women living in heavy drilling areas during pregnancy were also more likely to have high-risk pregnancies, as reported by their healthcare provider.
Members of Concerned Health Professionals of Maryland made the following statements:
“Fracking is a public health disaster unfolding before our very eyes,” said Dr. Gina Angiola, Board Member of Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility. “As a retired Ob/Gyn physician and a mother, I am appalled that this industry continues to expand operations in the face of a rapidly growing body of research showing serious, often irreversible, health harms. A premature birth can lead to a lifetime of health problems and expenses. Families suffer, while industry profits. Unacceptable.”
“As a nurse-midwife, I help women have the healthiest pregnancies possible”, said Katie Huffling, a nurse-midwife and Director of Programs for the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments. “Fracking in Pennsylvania and other states makes it increasingly difficult for us, as providers, to help our patients have healthy pregnancies. This new study further highlights the need to keep this toxic industry out of Maryland when harms to human health and our next generations are so clear."
Concerned Health Professionals of Maryland seeks to amplify the voices of clinicians, researchers, and other health professionals who are concerned about the potential health effects of unconventional natural gas development and production (“fracking”) in Maryland. Concerned Health Professionals of Maryland is a project of Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility, with the support of the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments and the Maryland Environmental Health Network and other health professionals concerned about the impacts of fracking.
Press Release: Concerned Health Professionals of Maryland Send Letter to Hogan About Important New Water and Air Pollution Studies and Significant New Evidence of Harm
Annapolis, MD – Today, Concerned Health Professionals of Maryland (CHPMD) sent Governor Hogan a letter highlighting two alarming studies demonstrating the risks of fracking, both released in the past week. Last month, a two and a half year fracking moratorium (HB449/SB409) passed with an overwhelming majority in both houses of the Maryland Legislature. The bill has been on Governor Hogan’s desk since the end of the legislative session.
Read the letter here.
The letter states, “ Two new studies in the past two weeks, detailed below, add to the weight of the peer-reviewed evidence – now more than 450 studies, at least 75 percent of which have come out since January 2013 – indicating significant dangers, health impacts, and remaining uncertainties. “
“It seems that a new study comes out every week, further highlighting the risks that drilling and fracking pose to human health,” said Dr. Ann Bristow, commissioner on the previous administration’s Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative and member of CHPMD. “The evidence that fracking is harmful to our environment and health continues to emerge, and these two new studies are just the latest in a growing body of peer-reviewed research showing that fracking can contaminate the air, water and threaten our health.”
The letter also points to the “significant shortcomings” in Maryland's prior study of fracking, overseen by former Governor O'Malley. As the letter notes, two commissioners of the “Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative,” released a letter in January outlining the commission’s study did not incorporate a great deal of the recently-released studies exploring the health effects of fracking.
Two new studies were published just this week, one showing that air-pollution from fracking in neighboring Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia has contaminated the air across state lines into Maryland and other areas, and the other found a common drilling chemical in Pennsylvania drinking water. The first study was conducted by University of Maryland at College Park researchers and published in the journal Atmospheric Scientists. The second was from Penn State University researchers who tested water from three wells at homes near drilling and fracking sites in Bradford County, Pennsylvania, and was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The Honorable Larry Hogan
Governor of Maryland
Annapolis, MD 21401
Dear Governor Hogan,
As you consider signing the Maryland fracking moratorium bill (HB 449/SB409), Concerned Health Professionals of Maryland would like to bring to your attention two new peer-reviewed studies published in the past week. These studies, detailed below, add to the weight of the peer-reviewed evidence – now more than 450 studies, at least 75 percent of which have come out since January 2013 – indicating significant dangers, health impacts, and remaining uncertainties. Maryland's prior study of fracking, overseen by former Governor O'Malley, suffers from significant shortcomings as it does not incorporate a great deal of the recently-released studies, which provide much of the most important evidence to date. They underscore the public health imperative of pausing before deciding whether to allow this practice of natural gas extraction to occur in our state.
Concerned Health Professionals of Maryland is a coalition of clinicians, researchers, and other health professionals who are concerned about the potential health effects of unconventional natural gas development and production (“fracking”) in Maryland. We have been following the science related to fracking and public health very closely. The following two recent studies serve to highlight the dangers and uncertainties surrounding the health impacts of fracking.
As the Baltimore Sun reported last week, a new study published in the journal Atmospheric Environment by University of Maryland at College Park researchers found that the atmospheric levels of ethane detected at monitoring stations in Baltimore rose significantly between 2010 and 2013, correlated with an increase in drilling and fracking the Marcellus shale in the neighboring states of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio. Ethane levels similarly increased in Washington DC, which is also downwind from the gas development in the region. Ethane levels did not increase in the control area of Atlanta, Georgia, where fracking is not taking place in neighboring states.
The data from this study suggest operational atmospheric pollution, measured ethane, is not limited to the local drilling operations. These findings are quite disconcerting because even those communities where fracking is not occurring may face air pollution and negative health impacts.
As the study authors state, "the limited longitudinal data of horizontal drilling with hydraulic fracturing inhibits the ability of municipalities to completely understand the detrimental effects from the drilling operations to its populations.”
These findings emphasize the need to conduct long-term epidemiological studies. They also highlight the failure of the oil and gas industry, and state and federal regulators, to evaluate properly the effects of their operations on the local and regional populations. The detection of ethane so far downwind of the operations also indicates that methane, an extremely potent greenhouse gas, is present, as ethane is the second-most prevalent substance in natural gas. The presence of these volatile organic compounds (VOCs) indicate incomplete combustion at the source, indicating inefficiency in the unconventional natural gas extraction process and demonstrating the need for stricter controls. Furthermore, the presence of VOCs can increase ozone production and exceed current environmental standards. According to researchers, Marcellus Shale activities would, on average, account for 12% of the total NOx and VOC emissions and 14% of the total particulate matter (PM) in the region in 2020. NOx and VOC pollution correlates with increased mortality and morbidity and would complicate Maryland’s attainment of federal PM and ozone standards.
The other significant study published in the past week, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, highlights the potential for drinking water contamination by shale gas development. Researchers from Penn State University tested water from three wells at homes near drilling and fracking sites in Bradford County, Pennsylvania and found 2-Butoxyethanol or 2BE, a common drilling chemical. In animal studies, this chemical is linked to tumors. The study found that hydrocarbons and injected drilling and fracking chemicals traveled about a mile through a connected network of pathways into an aquifer people use for drinking water, and the chemicals were still present 2.5 years later, when the researchers took their samples.
This chemical was not found in well water tested farther away from drilling sites. The researchers note that they would have possibly been able to “fingerprint” the chemical and compare it to the specific chemicals used at the fracking sites near the contaminated wells, except that drilling companies would not give them access to samples of drilling, wastewater pits, or other fluid samples. This lack of access hampers the ability of researchers to conduct studies on potential air and water contamination related to this industry.
These studies underscore the fact that we are only beginning to get the full picture of the risks and adverse impacts of drilling and fracking, but what we know is alarming for public health. Given the lack of any evidence indicating that fracking can be done safely – and a wealth of evidence to the contrary, we call on you to heed the science and act to safeguard the health of Marylanders by signing the moratorium on fracking.
Steering Committee, Concerned Health Professionals of Maryland:
Katie Huffling, MS, RN, CNM, Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments
Rebecca Rehr, MPH, Maryland Environmental Health Network
Ann Bristow, Ph.D. Emeritus Professor, Frostburg State University
Luke Michaelson, PhD, RN
Cc: Van T. Mitchell, Secretary, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
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