Editorial: PA doctors’ fracking ban a call for more research



Fracking rigs in Butler County dot the landscape across western Pennsylvania. TNS

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

Following the lead of New York, Maryland and Vermont, doctors in Pennsylvania want the state to be the next to initiate a ban on fracking.

Last week, the Pennsylvania Medical Society called for a statewide moratorium on new shale gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing after a new Yale study found that about 80 percent of the 1,000 chemicals that are released into the air or water by fracking had insufficient research on their cancer-causing potential.

Furthermore, the study found that several carcinogens used in fracking could potentially contaminate the air and water of nearby communities and could increase the risk of leukemia in children.

When the 16,000-member medical society is advocating a halt in fracking until we have a health registry and more research to assess the health risks and safety concerns of the practice, we should be listening to them.

While several studies have been done to analyze the environmental risks associated with fracking, more research is coming out about the health risks of fracking as well. But as the Pennsylvania Medical Society notes, much more research is needed before we can be sure fracking is safe for our state. Although a full moratorium could severely disrupt the state’s economy, lawmakers and Gov. Tom Wolf should push for more research so Pennsylvania can minimize the harm of fracking.

As a public health issue, our doctors have the right to be concerned. Many recent studies have shown the negative effects fracking can have on human health including increased risk of asthma attacks, lower birth weights, contaminated water and chronic nasal and sinus symptoms.

With minimal regulations on the industry, the people who live in these communities deserve to know the health implications of fracking wells operating close by. Without the proper research and evidence to prove that these practices are completely safe, the residents are unknowingly facing potential health risks.

Until then, the economic benefits do not outweigh the environmental and health concerns it may cause. While Wolf has said he does not support the moratorium, he needs to say that we need more research into the potential harms of fracking.

Instead of overlooking these issues, it would best serve the state’s interest to listen to the doctors, environmentalists, researchers and people in our own communities who are directly impacted by this decision.

Like any other industry, fracking requires scientific research and expert analysis to inform our lawmakers of the best way to regulate the industry. When it comes to fracking, lawmakers so far have prioritized economic benefits over steps to protect the people and the environment. That needs to change.

The study the Pennsylvania Medical Society cites isn’t one-of-a-kind, and the call for a moratorium isn’t unfounded. It’s a cry for more information and knowledge on behalf of the people.

Up until now, we’ve valued the financial costs we’re saving due to natural gas drilling. It’s time to recognize the human costs of fracking and do what we can to stop the potential harms.

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