Health Professionals launch new effort to fight fracking in advance of National Public Health Week

Media Contacts
Rachel Richardson

Environment America

Washington, D.C. – In advance of National Public Health week, 631 health professionals from 46 states and The District of Columbia are calling on President Trump to take action to protect families from the health impacts of fracking. The letter calls on the administration to acknowledge fracking creates threats to human health – including toxic air pollution and water contamination.  The letter is the first salvo in a series of actions that public health professionals have planned in the coming weeks to address the growing health toll of dirty drilling.   
Toxic air pollution from fracking operations has been linked to reduced lung function, triggering asthma, and even premature death. A recent report by Environment America found that children and the elderly are at increased risk of health impacts due to nearby fracking.
“The full cycle of fracking operations uses vast quantities of chemicals known to harm human health, produce billions of gallons of toxic wastewater annually, and create health-threatening air pollution while emitting huge amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide over the course of 20 years… the severity of fracking’s impacts make it a moral imperative to take fast action now to better protect our health, environment, and families living on fracking’s front lines,” the letter states.

“A rapidly expanding body of research confirms that fracking has emerged as one of the greatest toxic health threats of our time,” said Rachel Richardson, director of Environment America’s Stop Drilling Program. “And families from California to Pennsylvania can attest to this reality.”

The doctors, nurses, and medical professionals from across the country are calling on President Trump to acknowledge fracking is a threat to human health and take steps to mitigate its harms, including prioritizing closing federal loopholes that exempt fracking, stopping fracking wherever it can starting on our federal lands, and regulate methane emissions from the oil and gas industry.

“As a nurse, it is my role to be a patient advocate and fight for measures that prevent disease. Growing evidence shows fracking to be a public health risk and it impacts our most vulnerable populations,” said Laura Dagley, a registered nurse from Pittsburgh. “Children’s lungs are still developing and more susceptible to damaging effects of air pollution caused by fracking. The elderly, as well as those with cardiovascular and respiratory illness, are also more likely to be hospitalized when exposed to this air pollution. We need our policymakers to put health first and close regulatory loopholes related to fracking.”

“The calculations on the ‘benefits’ of fracking never factor in the impact on the surrounding community’s air, water, noise, scenery and health,” said Walter Tsou, MD, MPH, Interim Executive Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility Philadelphia.

The letter is the first in a series of actions by public health and environmental groups in a new effort to fight fracking. Following National Public Health Week, thousands of health professionals will receive a toolkit designed to equip doctors and nurses with ways to educate fellow health professionals, the public, and decision makers on fracking’s health impacts. On April 13th, health professionals will gather for a national webinar to share success stories and best practices to protect health from fracking.

“As a nurse living and working in Pennsylvania, I see firsthand the health impacts of fracking – such as asthma, respiratory issues, cardiac problems, and negative pregnancy impacts,” said Dr. Kelly Kuhns, a nurse and member of the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments. “With the majority of over 700 peer-reviewed studies showing negative public health impacts from fracking, its imperative that health professionals are engaged on this issue – the health of our patients and communities is at stake.”

In light of fracking’s health impacts, more than 500 communities have taken action to stop or limit the dirty drilling practice. Moreover, earlier this week, Maryland’s state senate approved a measure to join Vermont and New York as states banning fracking altogether.

“Our families’ health should be nonnegotiable,” Richardson said. “After looking at the public health data, a growing number of cities and states have rightly concluded that the surest way to protect our health from fracking is to ban it entirely.”