Environment New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM – Today, Environment New Mexico delivered a letter from 25 doctors, nurses, and other health professionals in New Mexico to President Obama asserting that fracking should be stopped, given the overwhelming threats to public health. Environment New Mexico’s federal arm, Environment America, and its other state affiliates delivered similar letters to decision-makers from more than 1,000 health professionals nationwide. The letters come as public awareness of the health and environmental impacts of fracking is on the rise. In one striking example, last month a peer-reviewed study published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences found an increased rate of birth defects in babies born to mothers in Colorado who lived in close proximity to multiple oil and gas wells.
“Fracking is making people sick—period. New Mexico families are already suffering from dangerous air pollution and water contamination caused by dirty drilling,” said Sanders Moore, Director of Environment New Mexico. “We need our elected officials to act now to protect people. And 25 doctors, nurses, and health professionals in New Mexico agree. This should serve as a wake up call for mayors and our federal decision-makers.”
Fracking is expanding rapidly across the country, and its effect on public health and the environment is increasingly taking its toll. There is a growing number of documented cases of individuals suffering acute and chronic health effects while living near fracking operations—including nausea, rashes, dizziness, headaches and nose bleeds. Physicians reviewing medical records in Pennsylvania have called these illnesses “the tip of the iceberg” of fracking impacts on health.
“The risks to public health are inherent with fracking. The methods used are too dangerous for New Mexico’s lands and groundwater,” said Joanne Johnston, certified adult nurse practitioner. “The fact that health care practitioners in some states are under gag orders not to explore chemical exposures or the link from their patients’ symptoms to fracking speaks volumes about the health impacts of this practice.”
Fracking operations have contaminated drinking water sources from Pennsylvania to New Mexico. Leaks and spills of fracking fluid, which often contain known carcinogens (e.g. benzene) and endocrine-disrupting chemicals, have polluted rivers and streams. Fracking wastewater—often laced with heavy metals (e.g. lead, arsenic) and radioactive materials (e.g. radon, uranium)—has leached from hundreds of waste pits into groundwater.
Air contaminants released from fracking operations include volatile organic compounds (VOCs); some are carcinogenic, and some damage the liver, kidneys and central nervous system. Researchers at the University of Colorado School of Public Health found that people living within a half-mile of gas fracking wells had a higher excess lifetime risk of developing cancer than people living farther away.
Despite these impacts, fracking is exempt from key provisions of the nation’s leading public health and environmental laws, including the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the law that regulates hazardous waste.
In the letters delivered today, the health professionals state that “the prudent and precautionary response would be to stop fracking.” They go on to specifically call on President Obama to take two immediate steps to better protect families and communities on the frontlines of fracking:
- Call for closing the loopholes that exempt fracking from the nation’s major environmental and public health laws; and
- Declare sensitive areas—including Chaco Culture National Historical Park and places that provide drinking water for millions of Americans—”off-limits” to fracking.
“Fracking is a public health emergency. The Obama administration should act with all its authority to better protect communities. And given the onslaught of damage caused by fracking, this dirty drilling practice should be banned,” concluded Moore.