Opinion

Nurses decry fracking’s impact

As nurses, first and foremost we are patient advocates http://bambawefushia.com/nettdating-erfaringer/. Our goal is to find a path forward that maximizes benefits without putting patients at undue risk. The basic rationale behind protecting individual public health is the same: it is much easier to prevent harm than to recover from it.

This legislative session, the California Legislature is faced with a key decision that could go a long way in preventing harm: establishing a temporary statewide moratorium on aggressive oil well stimulation techniques, like fracking. State leaders already have recognized it is possible that fracking could have negative impacts on our clean air and water, as well as on our natural areas – that’s why they passed legislation last year that requires a full environmental study of fracking in the state.

With better testing, it’s quite likely we would see a significant increase in radioactive waste in regions where fracking is common practice, as it is through much of California.

While that study is conducted, however, fracking and other intense well stimulation techniques continue in both urban and rural regions. SB 1132, which is currently working its way through the legislative process, would go one step further to require the oil industry to press the pause button on fracking until we better understand how it affects public health and safety.

There is much that we still don’t know about how fracking affects air and water quality as well as public health and safety. But we know more now than we did just last year thanks to ongoing research. New reports come out every day indicating a strong correlation between fracking and increased toxins in air and water as well as seismic activity.

It is becoming clear that extreme well stimulation techniques pose threats to public health that go far beyond those associated with traditional oil and gas drilling.

Evidence is mounting that communities located close to fracked wells are at greater risk of respiratory problems like asthma and exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals, which are linked to everything from increased risk of cancer to birth defects and infertility.

A scientific study published by the American Chemical Society earlier this year indicates that current estimates of radioactivity in wastewater resulting from the fracking process are likely far too low, due largely to insufficient testing techniques. With better testing, it’s quite likely we would see a significant increase in radioactive waste in regions where fracking is common practice, as it is through much of California.

There is clearly a growing body of evidence that suggests fracking, acidizing, and other extreme drilling techniques may increase risks to public health and safety on a number of fronts. The statewide environmental study that is underway is a good first step toward understanding exactly what these impacts are in California.

Many of the chemicals used in the fracking process are turning up in groundwater and air quality monitoring in regions where this practice is most common. Oil and gas companies create proprietary fracking cocktails that mix chemicals and water to penetrate hard rock formations. These chemicals vary by well, but to date we know that at least 750 different chemicals are used in the process, including 29 that are listed as hazardous under the Clean Air Act and regulated under the Clean Water Act. Pregnant women and young children are particularly vulnerable to exposure to these chemicals.

We are already seeing the negative effects of these intense well stimulation techniques in California. For example, in the West Adams neighborhood in Los Angeles, an oil company used the acidizing process to enhance extraction from an older well. Residents who lived near the well site complained of headaches, dizziness, nausea, nosebleeds, and trouble breathing.

And we are seeing a disturbing link between fracking and increased seismic activity. Hospitals in California are well behind on compliance with seismic safety standards as it is. Increasing the risk of earthquakes potentially jeopardizes patients’ lives. Ohio state officials recently changed permitting requirements for fracking due to the likelihood that the activity has caused multiple earthquakes in that state.

There is clearly a growing body of evidence that suggests fracking, acidizing, and other extreme drilling techniques may increase risks to public health and safety on a number of fronts. The statewide environmental study that is underway is a good first step toward understanding exactly what these impacts are in California.

While this research continues, we should take a break from fracking statewide until we know more about how it affects the health and safety of children, families, and all residents in urban and rural communities throughout the state.

This just might be one of those times when an ounce of prevention is worth at least a pound of cure.

Ed’s Note: Denise Duncan, RN, is the Executive Vice President of the United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals. She’s been a registered nurse for over 30 years. Viki Chaudrue RN, MSNEd, Ed.D is an active member of the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE) and serves on the faculty at the San Francisco State University School of Nursing.

 

 


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