I'd like to ask any parent or grandparent who is reading this a question: Would you knowingly or willingly place your child or grandchild into a defective crib or car seat that had even the remotest possibility of causing injury or harm? I'm quite sure that your answer would be an unequivocal "Are you nuts?"
Yet, many in our community and state are willing to take just such a gamble with our children's health and well-being by pushing for the start of natural gas drilling with the new technology of hydraulic fracturing. In spite of industry claims to the contrary, there is mounting evidence from across the country that this unconventional drilling technique is the cause of illness in communities where it has been permitted. It is a fact that a percentage of the carcinogenic toxins that are injected into the ground remain there, with the potential to contaminate not only individual wells, but entire aquifers. The U.S. Geologic Survey publication "Water Resources and Natural Gas Production" from May 2009 states that a fracking operation which uses 3 million gallons of water with 0.5% chemical additives - the "minute amount" touted by industry - equates to 15,000 gallons of toxic chemical additives per well. In a study conducted by Theo Colburn of The Endocrine Disruptor Exchange, 96 % of the chemicals listed on the Material Safety Data Sheets for chemicals used in the hydrofracking process provide a warning about eye and/or skin harm, 94% warn of respiratory system harm, and 49% warn of brain or neurologic harm. Even if the instances of ground water and well contamination are as rare as the gas industry claims, if your well water gets contaminated, are you willing to offer up your child's health as the inevitable collateral damage resulting from industry practice?
Air quality has also been an issue in areas with high density drilling. A report prepared by Environ International Corporation for the Western Governor's Association in 2007 states that one common feature unites oil and gas production equipment: they emit nitrous oxides, volatile organic compounds, and other pollutants as part of their normal daily operations. Would you knowingly place your child or grandchild into a situation where breathing the air could potentially cause respiratory problems?
Our children and our grandchildren are our sacred trust. They are totally dependent on us for their care and protection. It is incumbent upon us as adults to insure their health, safety, and well-being. Knowingly exposing them to even the potential for harm is an abrogation of our vocation as parents and grandparents. Allowing gas drilling to begin in New York State before we have the results of long term studies on its cumulative effects on water and air quality is nothing short of hazardous to our children's health.
I challenge all individuals, groups, professions, and associations in Broome County and across the state who work with children, to educate themselves about the potential ill effects that widespread drilling will have on their health. This includes doctors, nurses, teachers, social workers, PTAs, and the Health Department, to name a few. I further challenge you to make a public statement about your findings. Information is readily available on many websites, including NYRAD.org.- where I urge concerned adults to view the presentation by Professor Tony Ingraffea from Cornell University, who uses the gas industry's own data to enlighten citizens about the size and scope of the industrialization that is planned for our area. The burden of proof that drilling practices are safe rests upon those who stand to gain financially from them, including all elected officials. Can you look your children and grandchildren in the eye and make this promise?
As a community we need to ask ourselves if there is anything that we would never compromise, no matter how tempting the financial reward. Is the health and well-being of our children and grandchildren where we will draw the line in the sand?
Author: Yvonne M. Lucia