Our health is not negotiable

By Susan Friar


Dear Editor:

Apparently our health is negotiable. As health studies continue to come in re: the harms of unconventional oil and gas extraction (fracking) and production, it is time for citizens to get informed and take action. A 2016 study done by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health generated this observation from the study leader, Brian S. Schwartz, a professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the Bloomberg School. "The growth in the fracking industry has gotten way out ahead of our ability to assess what the environmental and, just as importantly, public health impacts are." In this study researchers found that expectant mothers living in the most active area of fracking drilling and production activity were 40 percent more likely to give birth prematurely (before 37 weeks of gestation). Eleven percent of babies in this study were born pre-term. In addition, the women were 30 percent more likely to have a pregnancy labeled "high-risk," which can refer to factors such as high blood pressure or excessive weight gain. This study was done in Pennsylvania where the fracking industry now operates more than 8,000 active natural gas wells -- up from 100 in 2006.

Compare that to Colorado which now has almost 55,000 active oil and gas wells. A rural Colorado study of almost 25,000 births from 1996-2009 found congenital heart defects and neural tube defects (defects of the brain, spine or spinal cord) associated with the density and proximity of natural gas wells within a 10-mile radius of mothers' residences. And who is being exposed from this runaway industry? This study just out from the Environment America Research & Policy Center exposes the proximity of fracking near schools, hospitals, day care centers and nursing homes in nine states including Colorado. Statistics from this report: More than 650,000 kindergarten through 12th grade children in nine states attend school within one mile of a fracked well.

As this research grows we should be calling on the BLM to have a moratorium on further leasing of our public lands for the profits of fossil fuel corporations. It is NOT the mission of the BLM to use our public lands and public minerals to ruin the health of the public and the environment that sustains us. Start with our own area and write the BLM UFO in Montrose by Nov. 1. Tell them that we in the North Fork do not want more leasing. Their preferred draft alternative opens almost 95 percent of the public's lands and minerals to oil and gas leasing. Health should not be negotiable.

Susan Friar
Paonia