Open letter to the NY Farm Bureau—Research shows that fracking is shrinking the PA dairy industry. Time to protect NY farming.

An Open Letter to New York Farm Bureau,

We now know that gas drilling is shrinking the Pennsylvania dairy industry.  Two recent studies by researchers at Cornell and Penn State independently show these negative impacts.  But last year, in written comments to the NY State DEC, the New York Farm Bureau supported gas drilling in NY State, citing the Bureau’s belief that fracking would expand farming businesses. The research in Pennsylvania shows the opposite to be true. Farm Bureau advocated a policy that we now know will reduce herd size and milk production.

As a Farm Bureau member, I’m asking Farm Bureau’s to reappraise its policy based on this new objective information. The Bureau should adopt a policy against fracking that would actually support farming and farmers.  There are enough forces already working against dairy farmers. We don’t need Farm Bureau advocating positions that will drive people out of the business of farming.

Let’s review what we know, and NY Farm Bureau’s current position.

A study titled Marcellus Shale Drilling’s Impact on the Dairy Industry in Pennsylvania: A Descriptive Report, was published in February 2013 in the peer review journal New Solutions. The authors are researchers at Cornell, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, and Hunter College. See pages 189 to 202 at http://tinyurl.com/bl5fg8b

The authors compared dairy farms in the PA counties with the most wells drilled (average 620 well) to adjacent counties with under 100 wells (average 38). They measured changes in dairy herd size and milk production between 2007 (when horizontal hydrofracking became active) and 2011. Farm data came from the USDA Ag Census (The National Agricultural Statistics Service). Drilling data came from the PA DEP.

The counties with the most wells were Bradford, Lycoming, Susquehanna, Tioga, and Washington. The adjacent counties with under 100 wells were Beaver, Clinton, Lackawanna, Potter, Somerset, and Sullivan).

During the period of fracking expansion (2007-2011) the most heavily drilled counties experienced a 30% loss of milk cows compared to a 3% loss in counties with fewer than 100 wells. Milk production dropped 23% in the heavily drilled counties and 1% in counties with under 100 wells. (Table 1)

Table 1. Percent Change In Number of Milk Cows, Total Milk Production
and Number of Wells Drilled by County 2007-2011

Counties with most wells drilled
percent change in number of
milk cows
percent change in total milk production (pounds)
wells drilled 2007-2011
Bradford

-26

-21

955

Tioga

-18

-17

690

Washington

-47

-29

536

Lycoming

-36

-27

466

Susquehanna

-25

-24

454

Average

-30

-23

620

Adjacent counties with fewer than 100 wells drilled
percent change in number of milk cows
percent change in total milk production (pounds)
wells drilled       2007-2011
Sullivan

-5

-3

41

Clinton

0

1

88

Potter

12

9

72

Lackawanna

0

10

2

Somerset

-12

-11

19

Beaver

-11

-10

7

average

-3

-1

38

from Table 1,  Marcellus Shale Drilling’s Impact on The Dairy Industry in PA, New Solutions, vol 23(1) 189-201, 2013

A second study done at Penn State looked at all counties across Pennsylvania from 2007-2010. The study is online at http://extension.psu.edu/pubs/ee0020
The authors, lead by Timothy W. Kelsey, professor of agricultural economics, stated

“Changes in dairy cow numbers also seem to be associated with the level of Marcellus shale drilling activity. Counties with 150 or more Marcellus shale wells on average experienced an 18.7 percent decrease in dairy cows, compared to only a 1.2 percent average decrease in counties with no Marcellus wells. “The NASS and Department of Environmental Protection data suggest that increases in the number of Marcellus shale wells are associated with declines in cow numbers and milk production.”

Here is NY Farm Bureau’s 2012 explanation of the basis for its current position in support of hydrofracking:

“For farms, development of the Marcellus Shale formation means the ability to again invest in farm infrastructure; building new barns, adding cows to allow the next generation to stay on the farm and purchasing a new tractor to replace the 40-year-old model.These on-farm investments will ripple through the local economy and grow community businesses – from the general contractor to the livestock auction or the farm machinery salesman and seed dealer. The importance of revitalizing these communities and local economies cannot be overstated.”

If only this were true. It’s a year later, and we now know it was a false hope. We know that gas drilling shrinks dairy farms, and lowers milk production. And this shrinkage will “ripple through the local economy” in the opposite direction that the NY Bureau predicted in 2012, causing contraction to businesses beyond the farms.

There are many farming issues missed in the NY Bureau’s letter to the DEC, including fracking impact in farm family health, animal health, crop yields, and consumer acceptance of NY farm products.  But the economics of farming was at the heart of the Bureau’s position.

A very wise man said, “When my information changes, I alter my conclusions. What do you do, sir?”

Many New York farmers, including me, are now asking NY Farm Bureau to look at this new information and protect NY farmers against fracking. Specifically NY Farm Bureau should

1) Withdraw the 2012 comments to the DEC in support of fracking, now that the basis        for that support is shown to be in error.
2) Support a ban on fracking in NY State and further study of economic impact drilling      on farm businesses.

Sincerely,

Ken Jaffe
Slope Farms
Meredith, NY

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Federal court ends FDA coma lasting since the disco era: antibiotics and livestock

A lot has happened in the past month on federal policy concerning the overuse of antibiotics in livestock.

A quick refresher on the issue:
80 % of antibiotics used in the US are given to livestock, endangering public health by creating ‘superbugs’ that can infect humans, and are resistant to antibiotics. Most of these antibiotics are not used to treat sick animals, but rather for growth promotion in healthy animals to make meat slightly cheaper.  The costs are in human lives lost, and lots of dollars for treatment of infections and hospitalizations. The FDA has essentially done nothing on this issue to protect public health.

On March 22nd a federal court slapped the FDA hard, and woke it from a 35 year coma lasting since the disco era—1977 to be precise. That’s when the FDA issued its conclusion that the use of penicillins and tetracyclines in livestock were endangering public health, and should be withdrawn from such use. The law required the FDA to end the use of these drugs after calling a hearing where the drug companies would be required to present proof of safety. (Proof which, incidentally,  didn’t exist in 1977, and doesn’t exist now). But before they called the legally mandated hearing, the FDA went into a deep sleep, and the drug companies were never required to present evidence of safety.   The FDA ploy seemed to be…… if we ignore the legal requirement for calling the hearing—for 35 years– then we never have to withdraw the drugs. Needless to say they were under pressure from industry, and some in congress to act brain dead.  But the NRDC brought suit against the FDA on this question in federal court and the court ruled against the FDA (the defendant).

In his ruling Judge Katz told the FDA over, and over, and over, (I’m paraphrasing) “FOLLOW THE LAW, CALL THE HEARING, SO YOU CAN STOP THE USE OF PENICILLIN & TETRACYCLINE IN LIVESTOCK.”  Here’s one example.

p. 54 Conclusion:  Defendants [the FDA] are hereby ordered to initiate withdrawal proceedings. Specifically, the Commissioner of the FDA……must re-issue a notice of the proposed withdrawals …… and provide an opportunity for a hearing to the relevant drug sponsors; if drug sponsors timely request hearings and raise a genuine and substantial issue of fact, the FDA must hold a public evidentiary hearing. If, at the hearing, the drug sponsors fail to show that use of the drugs is safe, the Commissioner must issue a withdrawal order.

The judge said that the FDA’s  findings from 1977 that the drugs were not safe still hold today.

P 51-2 The FDA has not issued a single statement since the issuance of the 1977 NOOHs that undermines the original findings  that the drugs have not been shown to be safe.

Judge Katz also made it clear the law says that burden of proof is on the drug companies to prove that these drugs are safe for humans when used in livestock.

P 23-4   However, the drug sponsor has the burden of persuasion on the ultimate question of whether [the drug] is shown to be safe.

P 25  if the applicant fails to show that the drug is safe, the Commissioner must issue an order withdrawing approval of the drug.

The judge also said it’s illegal for the FDA to do other distracting things about the issue in lieu of calling a hearing that would lead to penicillin and tetracycline being withdrawn.

P 52. Lastly,  the fact that the FDA “is engaging in other ongoing regulatory strategies” does not relieve it of its statutory obligation to complete withdrawal proceedings.

So how did the FDA respond?

It ignored the court’s mandate to proceed with withdrawal of penicillin and tetracycline. Three weeks later, on April 11th the FDA “engaged in other regulatory strategies that do not relieve it of its statutory obligation to complete withdrawal proceedings.

And what did the FDA do on April 11th instead of following the court’s instructions?

They started a voluntary program to reduce use of antibiotics in livestock.  The FDA suggesting guidelines to drug companies and livestock producers on how they would like antibiotics to be used, and not used, in livestock. And they suggested that veterinarian oversight or prescription be needed before use of antibiotics in livestock.

Although toothless, these FDA’s guidelines do represent something new, and may not be entirely hopeless.  But still, they ignore the court judgement. More detail on the new voluntary guidelines to follow.

In the meantime, thank you NRDC and Judge Katz. And nice to see you waking up, FDA.

 

 

 

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pneumonia blog — will the antibiotics work?

A funny thing happened to me on the way to writing about a federal court telling the FDA to take action to protect us against drug resistance bacteria caused by overuse of antibiotics in livestock. I got bacterial pneumonia. Now I’ve got a third prospective on this issue, that of a patient, in addition to farmer and physician.

After 48 hours of fever, before a diagnosis, my temperature spiked to 104, and was not responding to fever reducers. I started coughing.  The physician part of me knew the situation to be as serious as it felt, and that being a farmer might have endangered me as a patient.  Fifty miles from a real emergency room, on a Friday night, I started on antibiotics I had at home. When I got the chest x-ray two days later it showed a classic bacterial pneumonia.

It felt as if I’d been thrown from a plane, with a parachute that I wasn’t sure would open. Was the bacteria in my lung going to be treatable by the antibiotic I was taking, or did I have a drug resistant germ that I might have picked up from my cattle? I knew too well the natural course of bacterial pneumonia in the days before antibiotics—the downward arc that physicians could only sit by and observe. I knew that if I had bacteria in my lung that were resistant to the drug I was taking, then I’d be in free fall.

This may sound melodramatic. Not really. Just a typical day in the clinical world of serious infections, where there is  uncertainty about antibiotics working against widespread resistance bacteria.

When my fever was high, I remembered the young cardiologist I knew, a marathon runner, who picked up drug resistant staph pneumonia in the hospital, and died. I remembered the study from U. of Iowa in which drug resistant staph was carried by 2/3 of pig farmers who worked on farms where antibiotics were fed routinely to the pigs. I took some comfort knowing that my cattle were less likely to be a source of deadly resistant bacteria because I don’t give them antibiotics.

Three weeks later, I’m pretty much back, resuming a semblance of regular activity. The antibiotics worked against the bacteria. In the meantime the FDA— no doubt both shamed and emboldened by the federal court’s slap in their face—has made a first real step (after 35 years) to limit use of antibiotics in livestock, though the specifics of the court decision remain unaddressed. More on that to come.

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National organization of farmers and local farming communities act against hydrofracking, citing risk to food and agriculture.

Citing threats to food safety and agriculture from gas drilling, national farming organizations, and local farming communities took actions this week against hydrofracking.

From the Canadian National Farmers Union, “Hydraulic fracturing a danger to water, food, farmland: NFU calls for moratorium.” The National Farmers Union is first large, national agricultural organization to make a clear statement that fracking for gas represents a threat to food safety, agriculture, and farmer health. The NFU represents thousands of family farms across Canada.

The National Farms Union’s press release is worth reading in full. Here are some excerpts:

“We are in the heart of Alberta’s oil and gas country where our ability to produce good, wholesome food is at risk of being compromised by the widespread, virtually unregulated use of this dangerous process.”

“Farmers across Canada largely depend on ground water aquifers for both domestic use and livestock production. The quality of ground water is critical to raising high quality food. Unfortunately in the experience of too many Alberta farmers and ranchers hydraulic fracturing has been associated with water well contamination and damage. That is why our organization is calling for a moratorium on this technique until these problems can be addressed.”

Meanwhile, in rural upstate NY, farming towns are banning hydrofracking with local laws. Last week, before passing a ban in the Town of Jerusalem in the Finger Lakes region the town supervisor Daryl Jones made a statement including

“Most important to me was the research and analysis that presented facts that fracking as it is currently done is not safe. It is not safe for the waters we drink. It is not safe for the crops we grow and the produce we eat. It is not safe for the livestock we raise. And it is not safe for the waters of Keuka Lake in which our children and grandchildren swim, fish and play.”

Jerusalem and surrounding towns have strong agricultural economies, including dairies, grain producers, and some of the largest organic farms in the northeast.  Several of these towns are poised to ban gas drilling.

Also last week, Dryden, another agricultural town on nearby Lake Cayuga, won a court case that challenged its ban on gas drilling, supporting the power of NY towns to ban fracking.

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Cattle drive to states with good grass and abundant clean water—including NY

Two weeks ago I got an email from a farmer who had just shipped a herd of 40 cattle from Texas to his farm in Wisconsin. The cattle had been sold due to scarcity of grass on Texas range land caused by drought. He wanted to talk about converting them to a grass fed herd.

It turns out that this story is really part of a trend—-the shrinkage of the southwest’s beef herd, and a movement of beef cattle to places with good grass, and abundant clean water. New York is one of those places where the beef herd is growing. This is creating a grassland based economic opportunity for NY’s farming communities.

From Business Week
Texas, the top state producer, had its driest year on record in 2011, according to the National Weather Service. The drought destroyed pastures, forcing ranchers to sell or slaughter animals rather than incur feed costs driven up by corn, the main ingredient, which reached an all-time high in 2011.

From AgriLife Today Jan 27, 2012 — a big ‘cattle drive’ from Texas to other states and the shrinkage of the Texas beef herd to a 50 year low.
Dr. David Anderson, Texas AgriLife Extension Service livestock economist, said out shipment of beef breeding cows in 2011 was more than three times the amount of 2010 due to historic drought conditions. “Out shipments are cattle moving out of state from Texas and they might also be called Texas’ cattle exports to other states,” he said. “Reported out shipments rose dramatically above 2010 in August-October. Total cattle reported shipped out of state in 2011 was 1.113 million head, 287,000 more than in 2010.”

Meanwhile, the USDA reports that NY beef farmers have increased their herds over 10% in 2011, bucking the national trend. Good grasslands and abundant clean water have created an economic opportunity for NY’s rural communities.
Beef cows totaled 100,000 head, up 11 percent from a year ago. Beef cow replacement heifers totaled 38,000 head, unchanged from a year earlier. Other heifers and steers weighing 500 pounds or more, which are normally on feed for slaughter, were up 19 percent to 82,000 head. Bulls weighing 500 pounds or more were down 17 percent at 15,000 head. The 2011 New York calf crop totaled 530,000 head, up 2 percent from 2010.

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CDC letter on Ohio shale gas drilling and public health. First publication of full text letter.

The CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ADSRD) has weighed in on a three year history of drinking water contamination in Medina, OH. They recommended that immediate action be taken to avoid explosion in homes.  The problems developed within a week of two gas wells being drilled within 3000 feet of the homes with contaminated drinking water.

The full text of ADSDR’s 12/22/11 letter to the USEPA Region 5 is here: cdc-atsdr to epa letter–medina OH–12-11 I believe this is the first full text publication.  Short quotes of this letter were previously published in Ohio newspapers. The ATSDR/CDC was unwilling to release full text.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) 2009 response to the home owners’ complaints is here: –ODNR letters to mangans—Public Record Request re Mangan Water Well

Implicit in the ATSDR letter is a catalogue of the errors by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.  The ODNR permitted this hazard to exist for over three years; did not tested for methane; did not retest for other pollutants in spite of continued complaints;  has still not investigated nearby homes for contamination; and inappropriately dismissed the link to the gas drilling which occurred days before the homeowners reported a sudden onset of fouled water.

The ATSDR points out that it is a “public health hazard” for there to be explosive levels of natural gas in homes.  In other words, flaming faucets are not just an interesting visual effect. They represent a source of gas that can blow up your house.  ATSDR recommended that effected homeowners vent the room (i.e. open the window) while taking a shower  to avoid explosion.

The ATSDR says that they do not have enough data to be sure of the source of explosive levels of methane that can be seen entering the “bore hole of the drinking water well”.  But their “Conclusions” make it clear that they are open to the gas wells drilled in 2008 as the ongoing source. This also contradicts the ODNR’s dismissal of this option.

Recently, there has been increased research by the USEPA and CDC into the public health problems caused by gas drilling, bringing new data and understanding of public health risk in Texas, PA, Wyoming, and now OH.  This new understanding has led CDC and US EPA to critically analyze how these states’ officials responsible for gas drilling have failed to protect public health.

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Thinking about grassland is not just for farming nerds…….a video

Grasslands cover 70% of worldwide agricultural area. In developing countries, more productive grassland is key to feeding almost a billion people living on less than $1/day.

Grasslands have thrived for tens of millions of years. Large grazing ruminants are basic to the ecosystem.  No ruminants, no grasslands. Healthy productive grassland requires grazing animals—-buffalo, cattle, wildebeest, etc– that are mobile,  spending a fraction of the season in any one spot. Animal mobility is key to grassland health.

In developed countries, moving away from industrial livestock production will require a huge cattle drive—-out of feedlots, onto grasslands managed as an ecosystem with plants and animals.

Here’s a video, to get started

Thanks to @nyculla and @NYFarmer.

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Food stamps feed the economy…..(and people too).

There’s been a lot of food stamp bashing in the air recently, what with Newt Gingrich trying to label Obama the “food stamp president”.

But it turns out that food stamps (aka SNAP—Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) does more for the economy that other government stimulus programs.

The GDP multiplier effect – how much one dollar of food stamps increases the economy— has been looked at by economists in and out of government.  The USDA says  the multiplier is 1.79, meaning that ten dollars of food stamp spending increases GDP $17.90.  And $1billion on food stamps creates 10,000 jobs.

Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, says the multiplier is 1.73. He also found SNAP’s multiplier to be stronger than other types of government spending.  Here’s his analysis:

Government program

multiplier

snap

1.73

unemployment benefits

1.63

general aid to states

1.38

infrastructure spending

1.59

As David Dayen points out, the reason food stamp enrollment has increased recently is that the program was designed to expand as employment and income fall, as they have for several years.

It’s pretty clear that Newt is engaging in race baiting, even though twice as many white people receive SNAP as blacks.  Or perhaps Newt is proposing the character building effect of starvation as a path for families of the unemployed to reach his own self-imagined moral fiber.

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Hydrofracking impact on the health of livestock and humans– new study from two Cornell researchers

Two Cornell researchers just released an important  academic study on impact of hydrofracking on the heath of livestock and humans. This study also raises serious questions about safety and monitoring of the food supply.  Dr. Oswald is a professor of molecular biology at Cornell Vet School, and Dr. Bamberger is a practicing veterinarian from Cornell.

I’ve attached the study here. Bamberger_Oswald_NS22_in_press

Below I’ve pasted one of their case studies, on a beef herd with mass deaths of adult cattle as well as  stillbirths. This study goes directly to the concerns raised last week by Dr. Portier of the CDC.

This new information is likely to effect on how farmers think about gas drilling, as they consider the health of their livestock, and potential impact on the marketability of their agricultural products.

Case 2

In this case, a beef cattle farmer had a herd of 96 cattle (Angus Limousine cross) that was divided among three pastures. The farm is located in an area of intensive gas drilling, with two active shallow vertical gas wells on the farmer’s property and approximately 190 active gas wells within five miles of the property; of these, approximately 11 are shale gas wells and approximately 26 are deep vertical gas wells. In one pasture, 60 cows (a mixed herd, mostly 5- to 10-year-old bred cows) had access to a creek as a source of water. In a second pasture, 20 cows (bred yearlings) obtained water from hillside runoff, and in a third pasture, 14 feeder calves (8 to 14 months old) and two bulls had access to a pond. Over a three-month period, 21 head from the creek-side pasture died (17 adult bred cows and 4 calves). All the cattle were healthy before this episode.
Despite symptomatic treatment, deaths occurred 1 to 3 days after the cows went down and were unable to rise. Basic diagnostics were done, but no cause of death was determined. On rendering, 16 of the 17 adults were found to have dead fetuses, nearly doubling this farmer’s losses. Of the 39 cows on the creek-side pasture that survived, 16 failed to breed and several cows produced stillborn calves with white and blue eyes. The health of the cattle on the other two pastures was unaffected; on the second pasture, only one cow failed to breed. Historically, the health of the herd was good, the farmer reporting average losses of 1-2 cows a year in his herd of nearly 100 cattle.
This is an interesting case because it has a natural control group. That is, the
cattle that were kept along the creek suffered severe problems while the cattle in pastures at a higher elevation and away from the creek experienced no morbidity or mortality. As discussed below, the contamination of the creek may have been caused by illegal dumping of wastewater. Fortunately, these cows were not taken to slaughter, as they died on the farm. However, they still may have entered our food chain as well as that of our pets: rendering plants produce feed for many non-ruminants including chickens, pigs, cats, dogs and horses, so it is possible that chickens, raised for egg production or meat, and pigs were fed the flesh from these cattle.

 

 

 

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Shale gas drilling and public health: From CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. First publication of full text email.

Below is the full text of last week’s email from Dr. Christopher Portier, head of CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).  I believe it’s the first publication of the full text, which I obtained through the CDC press office.  The  story was covered on 1/5/12 by Kevin Begos of the AP quoting excerpts of the email.

As dry as the document is, in several ways it represents a major change in mainstream scientific thinking about public health risks of gas drilling.

  1. Dr. Portier essentially states that he cannot say that hydrofracking is safe.  This is said in a veiled way, by stating that he cannot confirm that it poses a risk to public health, but that he has “data of concern”.  If you think about it for a moment, saying he cannot confirm that drilling is unsafe is he same as saying he cannot confirm that it’s safe. (Two mutually exclusive options—safe/unsafe. Uncertainty about whether one option being true is really uncertainty about whether either option is true.)  So in stating that he cannot confirm that drilling is unsafe he is also stating that he cannot confirm that fracking does not poses a risk to public health–but that he had data of concern.  It’s just a shade less in-your-face in our current regulatory world, where it’s hard for someone whose job is protecting public health to state outright, yet,  that the gas industry poses a risk to public health. Given the ATSDR reputation for not making waves, this statement is pretty bold.
  2. Dr. Portier makes it clear that he has evidence (“data of concern”) that makes him worried.  If anyone has worrysome data it’s him. The ATSDR has been in the trenches with the EPA in Pavillion, Wyoming where they have documented drinking water aquifer contamination from hydrofracking, including with benzene.
  3. This is the first statement by a federal health official raising concern about risks to the food supply from hydrofracking. Dr. Portier recommends that

 ”-Studies should include all the ways people can be exposed, such as such as through air, water, soil, plants and animals. ……… livestock on farmed lands consuming potentially impacted surface waters; and recreational fish from potentially impacted surface waters.

Some of the wells in Pavillion were used for livestock. This was groundwater.  But the recognition of surface water risks to livestock and the food chain is meaningful new statement by a federal health official. Surface spills are frequent, substantial, and mostly unreported, and go downhill to contaminate steams and ponds used by livestock.  And given the livestock deaths in Louisiana and PA and elsewhere, proven to be caused by ingestion of frack chemicals, other strongly associated, it makes sense to be concerned about toxic residue in animal based foods.

The below email tells us that the scientific ground on which regulators must stand has shifted.  No longer can we ask opponents of fracking “prove that it’s not safe”. Given our current knowledge we now must say to the proponents, that before fracking “we need to do real research to find out if it is safe”.  That research does not yet exist.

In New York, this means that the SGEIS should go into a drawer, or the trash, until the research on health impacts recommended by Dr. Portier is completed.

 

Email 1/6/12 from  Health Communications Specialist, NCEH/ATSDR

Here’s the statement from Dr. Christopher Portier, ATSDR Director. Hope it is helpful.

We do not have enough information to say with certainty whether shale gas drilling poses a threat to public health. Although national data are limited on impacts to health, site-by-site work is turning up data of concern. One area of concern is that hydraulic fracturing fluids contain potentially hazardous chemical classes (petroleum distillates, volatile organic compounds, glycol ethers, etc.) and the recovered fluids may also contain radionuclides and salts.

More research is needed for us to understand public health impacts from natural gas drilling and new gas drilling technologies. Some research recommendations include:

-We recommend that chemicals related to or mobilized by natural gas activities be monitored. These chemicals may be different in different parts of the country or different geological formations.

-Pre- and post- testing of private drinking water wells is needed along with testing during the entire lifecycle of natural gas activities at each site.

-Studies should include all the ways people can be exposed, such as through air, water, soil, plants and animals. In addition to groundwater, exposure pathways could include the air at well sites, impoundment sites, and compressor stations both locally and regionally; livestock on farmed lands consuming potentially impacted surface waters; and recreational fish from potentially impacted surface waters.

One research challenge in looking at health effects is that we do not have a standard case definition for individuals exposed to natural gas activities. This poses an extremely complex problem for epidemiology researchers, given the range of possible environmental exposures that are currently not well defined and that may be intermittent and variable across the lifecycle of natural gas activities at any one location and in different parts of the country.

Our priority as an agency is protecting people from chemical exposures. In addition to our work at sites around the country, ATSDR is working with federal partners to advance our knowledge on potential health effects of natural gas drilling. At this point, we don’t know what we will find. We want to make sure that we understand any health risks that may be present. We are consulting on EPA’s National Hydraulic Fracturing Study. We are looking for opportunities to bring scientists together to set a research agenda to address health concerns from natural gas drilling.

 

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