CEH In New York: Protecting the Public from Fracking Chemicals

Last week, I presented testimony to a New York State Assembly Committee hearing on the state’s proposed new rules for fracking – rules that we consider woefully inadequate to protect New Yorkers from the real health and environmental risks from fracking and fracking chemicals.

I gave testimony as part of a panel of experts that also included Jake Hays, the Program Director for Physicians Scientists and Engineers for Healthy energy; Dr. Donna Flayhan, the Director of the Lower Manhattan Public Health Project, Mary Jane Uttech, the  Deputy Public Health Director from the Cortland County Health Department, and pediatrician Dr. Larysa Dirszka.

The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) created the new proposed fracking rules, yet failed to testify or even to submit written testimony.

In my testimony, I described just some of the health and environmental concerns surrounding fracking, including air and water pollution and the potential impacts from hormone-altering chemicals used in some fracking operations. Indeed, chemicals used in fracking carry a wide variety of potential health hazards. As I discussed, a 2011 review found that 632 chemicals have been used in natural gas fracking; the review found that many studies demonstrating health hazards from these chemicals, including:

• 75% of the chemicals have been linked to damage to skin, eyes, respiratory and gastrointestinal systems.

• roughly 40-50% could affect the brain and nervous, immune and cardiovascular systems and the kidneys.

• 37% could affect the endocrine system.

•25% were carcinogens and mutagens.

Despite these risks, the DEC’s proposed fracking rules fail to provide even for our basic right to know about chemicals used by fracking companies. Instead, the proposed rules allow companies to keep their use of toxic chemicals secret — making it difficult if not impossible to track when their operations pollute our air or water.

That’s why CEH called on DEC to go back to the drawing board, and require an independent, comprehensive health impacts assessment before they issue any regulations on fracking.