Fracked gas: it’s bad for your health, too!

Fracked gas creates “alarming risks” for our health, especially for those living near pipelines and compressor stations, says a new study by Physicians for Social Responsibility. The study – the third edition of the Compendium of Scientific, Medical and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking – compiles and summarizes hundreds of peer-reviewed studies and other important findings on fracking. EcoWatch’s article on the study is at http://ecowatch.com/2015/10/14/health-risks-fracking/.

A cover letter calls on the governors of NY, PA, and MD “to put on hold and deny any expansion of natural gas transmission and storage projects, until and unless their safety can be demonstrated through comprehensive public health and environmental assessments.” It also calls for moratoria or bans on fracking.

The letter to the governors adds:

“Compressor stations and pipelines are both major sources of air pollutants, including benzene and formaldehyde, that create serious health risks for those living nearby while offering little or no offsetting economic benefits. Compressor stations – used along regular intervals of most pipelines – in particular, are semi-permanent facilities that pollute the air 24 hours a day and expose nearby residents to levels of noise pollution known to induce negative health effects. Moreover, emerging data show that their day-to-day air emissions are highly episodic and create periods of potentially extreme exposures.

“We have particular concerns about the air pollution events created by compressor station “blowdown” events, which are used for maintenance and to control pressure and can last for hours. The intentional or accidental releases of gas through valves create 30- to 60-meter-high gas plumes, causing high levels of contaminant release. Anecdotal accounts associate blowdowns with short term effects such as nosebleeds, burning eyes and throat, skin irritation, and headache. Given the chemicals released, we are deeply concerned about the possible long-term effects of these exposures, including cancer, asthma, heart disease and severe neurological impairments. We note that there exists neither a national nor a state inventory of compressor station accidents. We have yet to accumulate an extensive body of peer-reviewed research on the public health impacts of compressor stations, but our new report includes very troubling documentation of extensive leakage of methane and other contaminants.

“Further, while air pollution from natural gas compressor stations and pipelines threatens the health of New Yorkers directly, methane leaks and losses also contribute significantly to the exacerbation of climate change. Emerging research from Texas and Pennsylvania shows that methane emission rates from compressor stations can significantly exceed those from well pads themselves.”

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