Prepared by Dr. Courtney Howard, Board Member, CAPE, and Dr. Larry Barzelai, Chair, B.C. CAPE Committee, April 18, 2017
Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) has been a hot topic of conversation in British Columbia for several years now, but many people still don’t realize that the vast majority of LNG will be coming from hydraulic fracturing (fracking) projects. Because of that, it is important to take a look at the emerging research around fracking as we debate LNG.
Technological developments in the fracking industry have outpaced health and environmental research. We are only now starting to get studies that tell us about the health impacts associated with fracking. The information is still preliminary, but overwhelmingly raises red flags for health. One study, which looked at all the health-oriented research on fracking, found that 80% of all studies had been done between 2013 and 2015. Of the ones that looked at public health outcomes, 84% identified potential problems.
Preliminary studies on the human health effects of fracking have identified concerns with the hormone-disrupting properties of fracking fluids and their potential for reproductive and developmental toxicity, increased asthma rates, and congenital heart disease with greater proximity to natural gas development.
Development can bring new jobs to a community, but it can also bring an influx of male workers. A recent report has shown that this may increase violence against Indigenous women and girls in northeastern B.C.
Very few studies have examined longer-term health outcomes with longer latency periods such as cancer or developmental outcomes. To quote a review of the literature: “This is a clear gap in the scientific knowledge that requires urgent attention.”
Additionally, even the single Pacific Northwest LNG project and the greenhouse gas emissions associated with it will make it virtually impossible for B.C. to meet its 2050 greenhouse gas emissions targets. Given that the World Health Organization has identified climate change as the greatest health threat of the 21st century, failure to meet greenhouse gas targets must be viewed as a risk to human health.
In the face of incomplete information, the best approach is to act in accordance with the precautionary principle. As stated by the World Health Organization: “in the case of serious or irreversible threats to the health of humans or the ecosystem, acknowledged scientific uncertainty should not be used as a reason to postpone preventive measures.” CAPE Doctors in B.C. believe that this approach should be applied to fracking in B.C.
Both the New Brunswick and Newfoundland/Labrador chapters of the College of Family Physicians of Canada have urged fracking moratoria in those provinces in the interest of public health. Over 180 physicians and health professionals recently signed a letter asking that no new projects which increase the level of hydraulic fracturing in British Columbia, or in Canada as a whole, go ahead until the health risks are understood, communicated to communities, and mitigated.
Let the candidates in your riding know that you are concerned about the health impacts associated with fracking and LNG in B.C.: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/who-s-running-in-the-2017-british-columbia-election-1.3786771
If you would like to see public health protected by a moratorium on further fracking projects in B.C., please click here to add your name to our petition.
NOTICE: Join us in Vancouver on Friday April 28th for a discussion panel about the health impacts of fracking featuring environmental scientist Judi Krzyzanowski, PhD, Dene environmental activist and lawyer Caleb Behn, and CAPE board members Dr. Courtney Howard and Dr. Warren Bell.
Click here for more information and free registration.