Fracking and LNG Projects: What is really at stake for our long term health?
Some of these chemicals are more likely to stay in the fracking water or leach into the ground water, and many of the chemicals used are more likely to vaporize and get into the airshed.
Of those identified, around 37% are classified as endocrine disruptors, meaning they can act like or interfere with hormones; hormones control everything from growth and development to brain function and fertility and act at the parts per trillion level (a drop in 20 Olympic size swimming pools).
Recent information from studies of the ground and surface water in the highly fracked areas of Colorado showed contamination of water with chemicals that mimic and/or hinder both male and female hormones.
Importantly, a review of literature by Dr. Ellen Webb of the Centre for Environmental Health in New York warns of the developmental and reproductive risks associated with chemicals used in fracking; toluene exposure may cause reduced fertility, particles in the air associated with gas development are associated with premature birth and low birth weight.
Moreover, researchers at Yale have found that of the relatively low number of compounds (240) for which there was information, about 103 were associated with reproductive toxicity, 95 with developmental toxicity, and 41 were both.
It is important to note that even when we have information on these chemicals, there is still little understanding of how they work together in complex environments.
Further, another study which look at over 124 000 people showed that expectant mothers living within 10 miles of a natural gas well were more likely to have defects including heart and neural defects.
Long term perspectives of high intensity oil and a gas development in Texas find an association between air pollution in these regions, including benzene levels, and childhood cancers.
Because children are more susceptible to hormone disruption before and after birth, high density fracking in Northern B.C. is worrying for the health and development of those populations. It is too early to make direct links of cause, but as evidence accumulates, shouldn’t we be taking the precautionary principle?
If an activity has suspected harmful consequences, providing proof that it is safe should fall on companies.
In B.C., disposal of waste water used from fracking, which can contain natural occurring radioactive material, cancer-causing chemicals, and toxic metals like lead and arsenic, is usually disposed of by injecting it into old wells.
The University of Victoria Environmental Law program says regulations are very weak. Monitoring of contaminated waste water is not required, nor is baseline analysis of surface water before a project nor does B.C. seem to require much monitoring of the workings of fracking projects, which is extremely worrying.
In Pennsylvania, fracking chemicals have been detected in drinking water by scientists at Pennsylvania State University; these researchers believe the contamination comes from either leaking containment facilities or faulty well components. In B.C., we don’t know what is going on.
A statement from the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment declares “Due to significant air and water quality issues, contribution to climate change through greenhouse gas emissions, and documented and anecdotal evidence of health effects to humans and animals living near fracking wells, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment recommends an immediate moratorium on fracking in Canada…”
Whether the impact of single LNG plant projects can be justified or not, we simply do not know enough about the long term consequences of fracking on human health to expand it in BC until industry, supported by independent academic science, can prove it to be safe.
The evidence strongly suggests harmful health impacts, especially on younger populations. Do we want to be running large scale science experiments on the people of B.C.?