Tags: Doctors Urge Fracking Moratorium | Health Study

Fracking Moratorium Urged as Doctors Call for Health Study

Monday, 09 Jan 2012 01:35 PM

The U.S. should declare a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in populated areas until the health effects are better understood, doctors said at a conference on the drilling process.

Gas producers should set up a foundation to finance studies on fracking and independent research is also needed, said Jerome Paulson, a pediatrician at George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington.

Fracking injects water, sand and chemicals into deep shale formations to free trapped natural gas. A boom in production with the method helped increase supplies, cutting prices 32 percent last year. The industry, though, hasn’t disclosed what chemicals are used, raising concerns about tainted drinking water supplies and a call for peer-reviewed studies on the effects. The EPA is weighing nationwide regulation.

“We’ve got to push the pause button, and maybe we’ve got to push the stop button,” said Adam Law, an endocrinologist at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, in an interview at a conference in Arlington, Virginia that’s the first to examine criteria for studying the process.

The gas industry has used hydraulic fracturing for 65 years in 30 states with a “demonstrable history of safe operations,” said Chris Tucker, a spokesman for Energy In Depth, a Washington-based research and advocacy group financed by oil and gas interests, in an e-mail.

Record Production

U.S. natural gas production rose to a record 2.5 trillion cubic feet in October, a 15 percent increase from October 2008.

A moratorium on fracking pending more research “would be reasonable,” said Paulson, who heads the Mid-Atlantic Center for Children’s Health and the Environment in Washington, in an interview.

A top scientist at the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention said last week that fluids used in hydraulic fracturing contain “potentially hazardous chemical classes.” The compounds include petroleum distillates, volatile organic compounds and glycol ethers, said Christopher Portier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health.

One of Portier’s deputies will address the conference today.

Tucker called the CDC’s participation in the conference “disappointing,” saying the conference is “a closed-door pep- rally against oil and natural gas development.”

Industry representatives were invited to attend, Law said.

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