Public Health Warnings

Dr. Eilish Cleary studied medicine in Dublin, and is currently Chief Medical Officer Of Health for the province of New Brunswick in Canada.

Her Report makes detailed recommendations for public health safeguards if New Brunswick allows fracking to proceed.These are minimum safeguards – does anyone believe that even a fraction of these will be considered and enforced in Ireland?

Can anyone imagine an inspector telling a company to close down a faulty 6m Euro well and start again? No, neither can we. In the real world we do not believe this industry can be, or will be, regulated.

click to download this report  http://goodenergiesalliancedotcom.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/new-brunswick-health-officers-recommendations.pdf

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The following correspondence should also be of interest for those interested in the Environmental and Public Health implications of fracking

We could refer to the not insignificant Economic costs of public health and illness, though we must note that the health of infants and children – who have no vote in this matter – is beyond financial consideration.

February 1st. 2012

Mrs. Arlene Foster MLA

Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment

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Adam Law, MD., FRCP(UK)

404 North Cayuga St.     Ithaca,     NY 14850 USA
608 277 1300       law@ithacamed.com

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Dear Mrs. Foster,

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I write to you as a physician and board member of Physicians Scientists & Engineers for Healthy Energy, an organization based in New York concerned with providing the public and policy makers with vetted, scientific information on novel energy production methods. Unconventional gas development from shales using high volume hydraulic fracturing continues to grow rapidly in many states across our country and is beginning to unfold in other parts of the world. As an independent organization, PSE grew out of conversations with myself, scientists Robert Howarth and Stanley Scobie, and engineer Anthony Ingraffea about the dearth of unbiased information regarding this practice. There is a specific need for transparent and evidence based information regarding the practice’s environmental and public health implications. PSE offers a multidisciplinary approach to the issue, drawing on a diverse intellectual resource to examine the empirical bases and assumptions about the issue.

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As a practicing physician and affiliate of Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, I approach the issue with a particular focus on the human health implications of shale gas development. Both myself and many other health care professionals and public health experts from around the United States are becoming increasingly concerned with this practice as more and more health complaints surface in areas where drilling has been underway. There have been multiple, consistent reports of adverse health effects from around the country from different shale gas plays and preliminary survey data. Admittedly, most of these complaints have not been sufficiently investigated, as scientists and regulators often lack the information, technology, and resources to be able to do so.

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As unconventional gas development continues to expand, it becomes an increasingly significant problem that there have been no epidemiologic studies nor any systematic registry put in place to track health complaints.    Efforts have been made to stimulate public health research, although the studies themselves have yet to conclude much since this specific form of extraction is still so novel. The technology behind this form of gas extraction was invented in Texas about a decade ago and continues to be refined and improved upon. Put another way, it has yet to be perfected and its development is at once, at least in part, experimental. Unconventional natural gas development has gone largely unnoticed until this past year, and public health experts around the world are scrambling to catch up. In short, the scientific information for the public health impacts of high-volume hydraulic fracturing has yet to be gathered.

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There was a significant effort to promote research on January 9th at a national academic conference in Washington, DC on the epidemiologic and public health considerations of natural gas production. Epidemiologic and Public Health Considerations of Shale Gas Production: The Missing Link grew out of a suggestion by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) to investigate the methodological aspects of creating pertinent epidemiologic studies. This conference brought together public health experts from around the country to address this issue and the following agencies and institutions were represented: CDC, ATSDR, EPA, NIEHS, OSHA, APHA, Cornell University, University of Pittsburgh, Columbia University, George Washington University, Johns Hopkins University, Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania, Colorado School of Public Health, Drexel University, and University of North Carolina, among others. If you are interested, conference information, including a program, list of attendees, and video footage can be found at http://www.psehealthyenergy.org/

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The overwhelming consensus among the experts gathered at this conference was that the process should be postponed until epidemiologic data is gathered. The risks are simply too high and the preliminary evidence continues to suggest the practice is negatively impacting the human health in communities where it has been developed. Known carcinogens such as benzene and naphthalene have been identified in fracking fluids. In fact, more than 25% of the chemicals used in the process have been shown to cause cancer or mutations. Thirty-seven percent of fracking fluid chemicals have been identified as affecting the endocrine system, some of these are likely endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) affecting the hormonal signaling pathways within the body, even at very low concentrations. EDCs have been shown to cause breast, prostate, pituitary, testicular, and ovarian cancers.

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Additionally, radioactive and other volatile organic compounds are released from the shale during the fracturing process. Drill cuttings and flowback wastewater are contaminated by these naturally radioactive substances and carcinogenic metals such as arsenic, chromium, benzene, uranium, radon, and radium. There is a significant chance of human exposure to chemical carcinogens during the storage, treatment, and disposal of contaminated wastewater. Furthermore, carcinogens can also pollute drinking water and affect air quality. Researchers in Colorado, using US EPA risk assessment tools to look at carcinogenic effects of air quality at oil and gas sites, found excess cancer risks from air pollution alone (from 5 to 58 additional cancers per million). A recent EPA study in Pavillion, WY confirmed the presence of the carcinogen 2- butoxyethanol, a widely used fracking chemical, in the aquifer under the intensively drilled community. An ambient air quality analysis in Dish, TX confirmed the presence of multiple recognized human carcinogens in fugitive air emissions. These identified compounds are commonly known to emerge from natural gas industrial processes such as drilling, flaring, and compression. Additionally, preliminary evidence in Texas points to high cancer rates in intensively drilled areas.

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Cancer is just one of many health problems associated with unconventional natural gas extraction. While the evidence is not yet conclusive, it does give probable cause for creating a moratorium on the process until the science is conducted. In other words, we believe the science should come before the policy. The question of proof surfaces time and time again and while the issues have changed from lead paint to tobacco to asbestos, the underlying issue remains the same: science takes time. This does not, however, mean that its absence should enable risky practices. In the absence of reliable science, particularly that addressing the significant public health concerns of practices like high volume hydraulic fractuing, policies should be both precautionary and preventative in nature. Otherwise, we put our citizens in the unacceptable role of being placed, as PSE affiliate Michelle Bamberger puts it, in an “uncontrolled health experiment on an enormous scale”. Dr. Madelon Finkel and I highlighted the need for precaution in a peer reviewed paper published in the American Journal for Public Health which I have attached to this letter.

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In addition to public health concerns, there is also the question of shale gas production’s impact on the climate system. Some of my colleagues at Cornell University (Howarth, et al) have demonstrated that the global warming potential for unconventional natural gas is higher than that of conventional natural gas, oil, and coal. This is especially true over a 20- year time period. While methane doesn’t stay in the atmosphere as long as CO2, it is a much stronger greenhouse gas. 3.6% to 7.9% of the methane from shale-gas production escapes to the atmosphere in venting and leaks over the lifetime of a well. Natural gas may burn cleaner than other energy sources such as coal, but a full life-cycle analysis must be taken into account when considering its global warming potential. Both the United Nations and NASA climate change scientists (Shindell et al) have highlighted the need to get methane under control. Unless society acts quickly, the global climate changes system will reach a tipping point in the next 15-20 years. Shale gas will not only aggravate global warming over the next few decades, but it will distract politicians and the public from needed action as we move towards a renewable future.

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Recent developments in Northern Ireland have come to our attention, namely the December 6th motion which was passed that called for a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing. From our understanding this motion has no effective standing in law and the vote has been largely ignored by the DETI. As an organization we support this moratorium and strongly believe this method of natural gas extraction warrants enough concern to continue its ban until it is shown to be safe. The burden of proof should not lie on the public, nor should remediation efforts depend upon confirmed health problems. We are afraid by then it will be too late.

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Sincerely,

Adam Law, M.D., F.R.C.P.(UK)

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The Following is Professor Anthony Ingraffea’s reply to John White of Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment’s response to the above letter:

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February 24, 2012

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Mrs. Arlene Foster MLA

Minister Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment

Netherleigh Massey Avenue Belfast BT4 2JP

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Dear Mrs. Foster:

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On February 1, 2012, PSE board member Adam Law, MD, sent a letter to DETI regarding the human health implications of shale gas development. We received a response on February 16 from John White, Head of Minerals & Petroleum Branch on your behalf. We would like to thank DETI for its prompt response and recognition of our concerns. However, despite the letter’s intent, it did little to assuage our concerns about DETI issuing a Petroleum License to Tamboran Resources Pty Ltd and the subject of unconventional natural gas development.

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I write to you as an engineer and founding board member of Physicians Scientists & Engineers for Healthy Energy, an organization based in New York concerned with providing the public and policy makers with vetted, scientific information on novel energy production methods. I have taught and researched structural mechanics, and rock fracture mechanics at Cornell University for 35 years and have extensive knowledge and expertise of the processes related to hydraulic fracturing via over 25 years of direct R&D interaction with the oil and gas industry.

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In his February 16th letter John White wrote:

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“DETI firmly believes that Northern Ireland needs to explore the potential that shale gas offers for its development. To consider imposing a moratorium at this early stage would prematurely block the chance to determine whether NI might have its own natural gas resource which would go some way to improving our security of energy supply.

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This view is reinforced by the findings of a recent UK study carried out by the House of Commons Select Committee on Climate Change. The Committee took evidence from a range of scientific, industrial and environmental organizations and interests and concluded:

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 ‘There is no evidence that the hydraulic fracturing process poses any risk to underground water aquifers provided that the well-casing is intact before the process commences’,
and moreover:

 ‘The environmental and climate risks posed by shale gas need to be balanced with its potential contribution to energy security. On balance, we feel that there should not be a moratorium on the use of hydraulic fracturing in the exploitation of the UK’s hydrocarbon resources, including unconventional resources such as shale gas’.”

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For the purpose of this letter, I would like to confine my comments to the first excerpt cited from the recent UK study. With due respect, the statement “there is no evidence that the hydraulic fracturing process poses any risk to underground water aquifers provided that the well-casing is intact before the process commences” is both myopic and incorrect. It is myopic because it unwisely focuses on the hydraulic fracturing event as the only risk, while completely ignoring the much more significant risks associated with the entire life cycle of shale gas development. A more complete assessment of these risks to underground water aquifers would include the risk of surface spills and leaks of drilling fluids, fracturing fluids, and flowback fluids, a risk when such hazardous fluids are very close to such aquifers, not separated by thousands of feet of rock. This risk extends not only to the drilling pad area, but wherever such fluids are transported, stored, and disposed.

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The statement is incorrect in implying that a well-casing, both the steel and cement portions, would always be “intact” and provide complete protection from migration of hazardous materials outside the wellbore. Industry data show that loss of wellbore integrity by failure of cement and/or casing is common, with or without hydraulic fracturing. These data show that loss of integrity can occur in about 5% of wells immediately after they are put into production, and can occur in up to 50% of wells over their lifetime. Each of these failures has the potential to contaminate underground water aquifers with fracturing fluid, flowback, and hydrocarbons. Further, an essential characteristic of shale gas development is the use of multi-well, clustered pads resulting in very high spatial intensity of wells. Even with a small failure/accident rate this can produce a large number of actual events.

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For these reasons the health concerns addressed in the letter from Dr. Adam Law should not be ignored. In fact, more and more cases of suspected contamination from unconventional natural gas development continue to surface in the United States, and, finally, these are receiving concerted evaluation by our EPA and health care professionals The risks of this process must be properly understood before any permitting decisions are made. My home state of New York has delayed unconventional development of natural gas, even for exploration purposes, from shale formations for nearly 4 years exactly because the types of studies indicated by Dr. Law have not yet been performed. For these reasons we support the December 6th motion calling for a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing.

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Sincerely,

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Anthony R. Ingraffea, Ph.D.,

P.E. Dwight C. Baum Professor of Engineering and Weiss Presidential Teaching Fellow Cornell University

President, PSE

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