Monday, September 15, 2014

Now We Know Fracking Is Making People Sick

Well, many of our fears about fracking have been confirmed as the largest study to date of the link between natural gas drilling and public health shows that those forlorn folks living near fracking sites and relying on well water are more than twice as likely to report skin and respiratory problems. But this shouldn't be news given the hundreds of nasty chemical toxins used in fracking, including toluene, benzene and other carcinogens.

The study, from Yale University and published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, surveyed 492 people living in 180 randomly selected households in southwestern Pennsylvania, an area containing more than 600 active natural gas wells. A full 39 percent of those living less than a kilometer (0.6 miles) away from a well, researchers found, said they’d experienced upper respiratory symptoms, including coughing, itchy eyes and nosebleeds, compared to 18 percent living 2 kilometers away or more. And 13 percent of those living close to wells reported skin conditions like persistent rashes and unexplained hair loss, compared to just 3 percent of the others.

The researchers have asserted that they are only reporting on the correlation so they can’t say whether fracking caused these symptoms.   Nor could they be more specific about what mechanism might have been at play. Drawing on past research, they say it’s possible that fracking is contaminating underground wells or causing air pollution, but it could also be that "the symptoms are just being caused by the stress and anxiety associated with living near major drilling operations — or by something else entirely."

This take, however, is hardly plausible given the first hand visual evidence seen, for example, in Josh Fox's Gasland II and the evidence we now have from Colorado investigations revealing that soil, air and ground water have been contaminated. The psychological proximity theory is also bollocks, given all those cases of animals that have died horrific deaths from drinking fracked water - leading their owners to have to send in hundreds of gallons of bottled water for their use too.

Ok, so it’s not a smoking gun and the evidence is primarily anecdotal but it still counts for something.  We also know, predictably, that diehard fracking supporters have been quick to underplay the findings. Enter PR misfit Katie Brown, spokesperson for the pro-drilling Energy in Depth, who asserted after the new results that it’s “just a poll.”

But this is typical dismissive PR reaction such as noted in the terrific anti-PR book by John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton, Toxic Sludge Is Good For You.

In the book, people who have been the recipients of toxic sludge -based fertilizers,  replete with hundreds of chemicals,  were asked about ill effects and they detailed them. However, the PR industry backing the fertilizer manufacturers argued that the people are wrong because it's "just a poll" and besides,  this toxic sludge was great for crops.  Never mind the vomiting, breakouts in rashes and convulsions, which could also be just in their minds. (They saw and smelled the sludge fertilizer and it induced a violent psychological reaction.)

So it's definitely uncanny to behold the parallels to what the pro-fracking PR hacks say here.

The Yale researchers also take care to note that their findings are consistent with earlier studies of these same health symptoms, including those reported by Michelle Bamberger and Robert Oswald. Bamberger, a veterinarian, and Oswald, a professor of molecular medicine at Cornell,  recently explained to Salon that industry secrecy and lax regulations made it difficult to prove a definitive link between fracking and health symptoms. In some states, for example, it's against the law to disclose the content of fracking liquids - though it seems to be ok for a Neoliberal gubernator assholes like John Hickenlooper to drink them to show "they're okay" . It is also against the law in many fracking states for physicians to run tests for the presence of fracking chemicals causing adverse health effects and to disclose them to patients.

Given this Neoliberal foreclosure of evidence, the so-called polls and surveys (such as those made by the Yale researchers in the recent study) assume supreme importance in exposing what these turkeys are doing to us - along with documentaries like Gasland I and II. Let's keep in mind the PR factories will never tolerate the truth, as in the case of anthropogenic global warming, so we must always expect their egregious and reckless counter attacks.

In Pennsylvania, where drilling has exploded in the past six years, whistle-blowers recently accused the state Department of Health of deliberately ignoring health complaints. Critics added that the state has yet to conduct even one study on fracking’s potential health risks.  We want to make sure people know it’s a preliminary study,” lead author Peter Rabinowitz told the New Haven Register, adding, “to me it strongly indicates the need to further investigate the situation and not ignore it.”

But you may be sure these fracking maniacs and their paid off pols won't be put off. They are determined to poison us all for a temporary profit - for energy, fuels likely not even to be used in the U.S. but shipped to China or other places that will pay top dollar.

Despicable! To see the partial list of the chemicals exposed in fracking liquids thanks to the work of those like Colorado Sen. Dianne D├ęgette, check out the list below:

 Benzene: a powerful bone-marrow poison (aplastic anemia) associated with leukemia, breast and uterine cancer
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- Styrene, which may cause eye and mucous membrane irritation, neurotoxic effects in the central and peripheral nervous systems.

- Toluene, which may cause muscular incoordination, tremors, hearing loss, dizziness, vertigo, emotional instability and delusions, liver and kidney damage, and anemia.

- Xylene, with cancer-causing (mainly in the kidneys, liver) and neurotoxic effects, as well as reproductive abnormalities.

- Methylene chloride, which may cause cancer, liver and kidney damage, central nervous system disorders and COPD.

Now that this new study is circulating we need to come down even harder on the frackers and that means no longer buying into their codswallop.  They must be made also to conform to the precautionary principle, meaning they must prove fracking is safe - it's not our duty or job to prove it's unsafe!

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