Fracking hazardous to New Yorkers’ health – Times Union

Fracking hazardous to New Yorkers’ health – Times Union.

Fracking hazardous to New Yorkers’ health

Published 11:13 p.m., Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The state Senate Democrats are holding a forum today on the health effects and other consequences of hydrofracking. That’s important, because the science is clear. Fracking will cause serious health issues for New Yorkers.

Truck traffic is one reason. With each gas well requiring more than 1,000 truck trips, it is a certainty that our roads will be filled with 18-wheelers hauling water, hazardous materials, drill cuttings and toxic waste.

Indeed, the number of additional truck trips will be a digit with at least six zeroes after it.

Exhaust-spewing convoys will grind past homes where pregnant women sleep, school yards where children play, crosswalks where grandparents wait. New York is the third-most populous state in the union. Fill it with tailpipes, and you have big public health consequences.

In the last few months alone, multiple studies revealed the risks that come with air pollution.

First came a study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health showing how exposure to smog in early pregnancy increases the risk of premature birth — just like cigarette smoking. (Pre-term birth is the leading cause of disability in the United States.)

Next, studies in Archives of Internal Medicine and Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that exposure to roadway pollutants triggers heart attack and stroke and accelerates memory loss among older women. In essence, breathing crummy air is the equivalent of aging your brain by two years.

Meanwhile, a team in California put an $18 million price tag on the medical costs of traffic-related asthma in children — in just two cities alone.

In short, the traffic pollution that fracking will bring is linked to some very expensive problems. These findings have relevance to the question of whether natural gas extraction via horizontal hydrofracturing should be permitted in New York.

Gas wells also emit smog-making fumes. A new University of Colorado study finds that people living near fracking operations can be exposed to air pollutants five times higher than the federal hazard standard. (One of these pollutants is benzene, a proven cause of birth defects and leukemia.)

But none of the above studies appears in the revised draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement that is the state’s planning document for fracking. Astonishingly enough, the revised draft does not assess fracking’s impact on health.

And while the Assembly added a $100,000 study on fracking’s health impacts to its version of the state budget, the oil and gas industry and their lobbyists were able to keep the study out of the final budget.

Recently, I made a big decision when I received a $100,000 Heinz Award for my work on environmental health.

Using the prize as seed money, I convened a coalition of citizens and businesses determined to blaze a sustainable trail. We call ourselves New Yorkers Against Fracking.

Now I would like the governor to make a big decision. Be as bold as the president of France, who halted fracking in his nation on the grounds that demonstration of safety does not yet exist. Be as sensible as U.S. economist Sylvia Brandt, who has asserted, “To have a healthy economy, we have to have a healthy population.”

Governor Cuomo, you have an opportunity to stand up for the health of New Yorkers. Please join us in saying that New York can’t afford the problems that fracking will bring.

Sandra Steingraber is a distinguished scholar in residence at Ithaca College.

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