January 12th, 2020 by Cynthia Shahan
Pleasantly called natural gas and sold to many as a better solution, a good transition fuel, natural gas has been dominating new US electricity capacity alongside renewable energy. Yet, hydraulic fracking absolutely takes the “natural” out of the fuel source. Originally, natural gas was successfully sold as a “cleaner” transition fuel. Who knew there were not even laws on the books to address the hidden pollutants, and that there would be much information lacking about the truth of the acid stimulation, hydraulic fracturing, and other new extraction technologies?
Because they were new, lawmakers, regulators, and the courts couldn’t keep up with the effects of horizontal drilling, the high-pressure injection of a slurry of chemicals, and the entirely different process. Or, in some cases, lawmakers didn’t want to look at the effects. The law books were lacking rules for the newer drilling processes, and many of the chemicals used in fracking were not disclosed. So, damage was done. There’s the “Halliburton loophole” in the 2005 Energy Policy Act, for example — fracking operations were exempted from meeting the federal standards set in the Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act. How could that be allowed?
Some of the chemicals used have now been proven to cause significant health problems, and will for generations to come. A new white paper by Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), “Climate and Health Risks of Liquified Natural Gas,” highlights some of these problems.
A Yale study published that of 1,021 chemicals were identified in fracking fluids. Of those identified, a great many showed dramatic contraindication for human or animal water supply. At least 157 were disruptive, disturbing, or toxic to the human reproductive system or human development. Chemicals that had federal guidelines regulating them — arsenic, benzene, cadmium, lead, formaldehyde, chlorine, and mercury — and 157 others were associated with either developmental or reproductive toxicity.
“The hydraulic fracturing extraction process injects a slurry of chemicals and millions of gallons of water thousands of feet underground at high pressure,” the article states.
The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) and Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) build more on the body of information, revealing associated problems. An article titled “The False Promise of Natural Gas” by Philip J. Landrigan, M.D., Howard Frumkin, M.D., Dr.P.H., and Brita E. Lundberg, M.D., reports, “Natural gas, composed principally of methane, has been hailed as a clean ‘transition’ fuel—a bridge from the coal and oil of the past to the clean energy sources of the future … but beneath this rosy narrative lies a more complex story. Gas is associated with health and environmental hazards and reduced social welfare at every stage of its life cycle.”
The article mentions water issues as well. “Ground and surface water contaminated with chemicals that are toxic. 25% carcinogens, 75% are dermal, ocular, respiratory, and gastrointestinal toxins. 50% have toxic nervous, immune, cardiovascular and renal effects, 30% to 40% are endocrine disruptors.
Also addressed are air pollution, noise pollution, light pollution, radionuclide releases, earthquakes, community disruption, fires and explosions, and climate change. You can download the article here.
“As physicians deeply concerned about climate change and pollution and their consequences, we consider expansion of the natural gas infrastructure to be a grave hazard to human health,” the report states.
Laalitha Surapaneni, MD, MPH, lead author of “Climate and Health Risks of Liquified Natural Gas,” adds, “Our current climate crisis is a health emergency. The actions we take now by extracting, transporting and liquefying fracked gas will determine the health of generations to come. It is unconscionable that we continue to subject our communities to these risks when we have the technology to make a just transition to renewable energy.”
Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) encourages everyone to share information about the health risks of LNG and advocate for a rapid transition to clean, safe renewable energy solutions such as solar, wind and geothermal.
Featured Image: NRG Mandalay Natural Gas Power Plant in Oxnard, California. Photo by Kyle Field, CleanTechnica
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