On National Doctor’s Day, 1000+ PA Health Professionals Call for Increased Protections from Fracking
[Philadelphia, PA] – Health professionals came together on National Doctor’s Day (March 30th) to issue a “Call to Action” from over 1,000 Pennsylvania health experts to address the health impacts of fracking. Attendees on a phone briefing to make this announcement noted that they believe that this is the largest group of health experts in Pennsylvania to come together to voice their concern about the detrimental health effects that may be caused by fracking.
“Today is both a day of celebration—that over 1000 health experts have taken a stand against fracking,” said Allie DiTucci, PennEnvironment Fracking Campaign Organizer. “And it is a day of urgency—because with every day of inaction, our elected leaders continue to subject their constituents to severe and widespread health impacts.”
PennEnvironment was joined by several of the Commonwealth’s top health experts to release a series of letters to the Wolf Administration representing the backing of 1000+ health professionals calling for increased protections for Pennsylvanians from fracking. Priority policies supported by these health professionals include:
- Establish a public health registry for healthcare professionals and affected individuals to report health impacts associated with fracking and other natural gas activities in Pennsylvania.
- Train health professionals, including those employed by the PA Department of Health, about the health impacts of natural gas.
- Address the known public health risks posed by fracking, including banning open-air waste pits.
- Remove the health professional “gag rule” from Act 13.
- Remove exemptions of the fracking industry from key environmental laws.
- Require a minimum setback of one mile for all fracking operations and associated infrastructure relative to schools, childcare providers, hospitals and nursing care facilities.
While progress has been made toward some of these goals, as Governor Wolf’s Department of Environmental Protection attempts to get the Ch. 78 fracking regulations over the finish line, for example, there is still much work to be done.
“The number one public health threat in Pennsylvania is fracking,” asserts former President of the American Public Health Association and former Health Commissioner of Philadelphia, Dr. Walter Tsou with Physicians for Social Responsibility. “Fracking has been linked to groundwater contamination, air pollution, radioactivity in flowback water, and even earthquakes. Nosebleeds, skin rashes, asthma, and respiratory difficulties are commonly found in areas where fracking occurs. Later complications such as premature births, cancer and tumors are very real threats,” he reminds us.
There has been a growing voice of concern about the effects of fracking from Pennsylvania’s health community. From air pollution, to water contamination, to global warming pollution, there is mounting evidence that fracking puts the health of Pennsylvanians in grave danger.
"What we know from our work at Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project is that activities associated with unconventional oil and gas development (UOGD) predictably result in air emissions and sometimes result in water contamination,” said Dr. Lenore Resick of the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project. “Even brief exposures can precipitate health related symptoms in individuals living in close proximity to UOGD."
It isn’t surprising that over 1,000 health professionals have thrown their support behind this pressing public health issue, and there are likely thousands more. PennEnvironment has teamed up with Pennsylvania health groups—including Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, Physicians for Social Responsibility, SEIU Healthcare, and Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project—to form Pennsylvania Health Professionals for a Livable Future. This coalition, representing tens of thousands of health professionals across the Commonwealth, is committed to addressing the impact of fracking and fracking infrastructure on the health of Pennsylvanians.
"Gas well drilling is proceeding without adequate consideration for the negative public health impacts to the surrounding communities, while well sites are being built within one mile of schools, hospitals, and nursing homes, placing our most vulnerable populations at an increased risk for illness and disease,” said Carly Cruz with the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association Environmental Health Committee. “As a registered nurse I am deeply disturbed and concerned by the lax standards and complete disregard for human health."
It is the job of our elected leaders to prioritize the wellbeing of their constituents, and when our state’s health experts sound the alarm bell, we can’t afford to ignore it.