Doctors Call for More Data on Fracking, Pipelines

The American Medical Association is calling for full disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, citing a need for further study about potential public health impacts of the practice.

The American Medical Association is calling for full disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, citing a need for further study about potential public health impacts of the practice.

The resolution was passed on Tuesday, the final day of the AMA’s House of Delegates meeting in Chicago. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a controversial extraction method that uses a mix of chemicals to extract oil and gas from underground deposits. Some worry those chemicals eventually wind up in the nation’s water supply.

The resolution does not oppose fracking, and takes no stance on whether the practice has or has not had public health implications. Instead, the vote was described as “merely an effort to increase transparency and permit further study of the potential public health effects.”

The delegates said government agencies should record and monitor the chemicals used in fracking, and collect data on potential human exposures and any contamination of well and surface water. Information about any such cases ought to be shared with physicians and the public, they said.

The vote came one day after a study was published in Health Affairs that said there remains insufficient data to determine whether fracking is safe or not. That same day, the US Environmental Protection Agency issued a report stating it found no evidence fracking has led to “widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States.” The EPA said it found specific instances of water contamination from fracking, but that those cases were limited in number.

In a related resolution, the Board of Delegates said it supports legislation to require a comprehensive Health Impact Assessment of the risks associated with the nation’s natural gas pipelines.

In a report on the resolution, the Science and Technology Reference Committee cited concerns about aging or unsafe pipeline infrastructure, and said an assessment is necessary “to determine how improvements to the infrastructure can be encouraged and enforced.”

“Oversight of the [pipeline] networks is inconsistent, resulting in differences in the integrity of the infrastructure,” the committee wrote. “[A]ccidents resulting in injury and death have occurred.”

The pipeline resolution was limited to focus on human health. An initial draft asked for a study of the “potential impact on human health and the environment,” however the environment clause was deleted in an amendment.