New York Health Professionals Call for Solid Science in Assessing Fracking's Health Risks

The growing army of New York health professionals concerned about fracking's health risks have launched a new initiative and invited regional clinicians, researchers, and advocates to join them in assuring that the Health Impact Assessment (HIA) currently requested by Governor Cuomo and undertaken by the New York State Department of Health (DOH) at the behest of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEP) is comprehensive, complete, (and conducted in a transparent process.)

"A pall of ignorance hangs over fracking," said Sandra Steingraber, Ph.D., biologist and Distinguished Scholar in Residence, Ithaca College. "Emissions data, monitoring data, exposure data -- these are the things you need in order to judge health effects, and where are they? Held hostage by non-disclosure agreements, gag orders, and right-to-know exemptions."

Speaking in Albany this week, the new group, Concerned Health Professionals of New York, led by Dr. David O. Carpenter, Director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany's School of Public Health, currently speaks for hundreds of health professionals and welcomes others who seek to protect the health of New Yorker's by preventing the incidence of disease (reported by citizens and physicians in neighboring Pennsylvania and elsewhere.)

Just this month, John Adgate, chairman of the Environmental and Occupational Health Department at the Colorado School of Public Health, Lynn Goldman, dean of George Washington University's School of Public Health and Health Services, and Richard Jackson, chairman of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of California Los Angeles' Fielding School of Public Health were contracted to serve on the DOH review panel.

However, one of the experts, Lynn Goldman said that she had only been given until December 3 deadline to complete her review.

"How can the state of New York ask three outstanding public health experts to evaluate the many risks of fracking -- radiation, diesel exhaust, silica dust, traffic noise, toxic spills -- and give them a few weeks to do the job?, said Dr. David O. Carpenter. "It's ridiculous."

Given such concerns as radioactivity, dangerous air pollution, and water contamination, a comprehensive, thorough and detailed assessment is a must for New York, one of the most populated states in the country, say the health professionals.

The group is concerned that the scientific process could be short circuited because undertaking a complete health scientific review could take time and thus trigger the mandatory expiration of the DEC's proposed fracking guidelines (SGEIS). If not enacted, these are mandated to expire in February -- one year (with a 90 day extension) after the last public hearing. If adequate time is devoted to a complete assessment, this could result in the need for a new set of guidelines, along with a public comment period.

Larysa Dyrszka, M.D., a retired pediatrician and advocate for children's right to health, said, "As a tool for understanding the health risks of a polluting industry, there is no substitute for a comprehensive, transparent health impact assessment with public input. We know that, and we know the advisory panel knows that." But the health professionals tracking the process have not been informed about how extensive the health review will be.

Therefore, the group, Concerned Health Professionals, has compiled extensive information on their website on what is known about the wide-ranging health risks of fracking (as well as allied activities such as hazardous wastewater disposal, pipeline leaks, gas explosions, and chemicals migrating into agriculture and food.) Other concerned health professionals are invited to join them in monitoring the ongoing status of the assessment to assure that the Governor's promise -- to act on science -- in all recommendations about whether or not fracking can proceed.

You can listen to interviews with Sandra Steingraber and Larysa Dyrszka on Connect the Dots radio.

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