Speakers claim fracking caused health problems
BATH—The health impacts to people due to hydraulic fracturing was the focus of three public forums in the Southern Tier this past weekend. The first was held at Bath Haverling high school, Friday, April 26.
Mark Schlechter, Bath attorney, moderated the event. He started by saying in looking at the costs of fracking, health is one of the least discussed areas of impact. Schlechter said the focus is usually on the damage to land, water, and air.
The first guest speakers were Rick Sawyer, former gas field truck driver, and Joe Giovannini, a Pennsylvania resident. Both talked about how their health deteriorated following exposure to fracking. Giovannini said his land was “severely impacted by drilling.” After wells were being operated near his home, the closest was 391 feet away, he started developing symptoms which led to stage four heart and lung cancer.
“I had to evacuate my home,” said Giovannini.
Giovannini explained the water contamination caused open sores and that “my feet turned red. My hands turned purple and blue.” He said after initially going to the hospital, the doctors said nothing was wrong. He added he went to his family’s doctor in January of this year and had a seizure 60 days later. Giovannini said he was admitted to the hospital and ultimately diagnosed with cancer.
Sawyer also suffered a long list of ailments following working for a gas company in Pennsylvania. He said, “I’ve seen it first hand (...) The air’s that bad. Birds fall out of the sky.” Another former worker, Randy Moyer, was also supposed to speak, but was not well enough to attend. A video of Moyer was shown, which highlighted his own rashes and bodily reactions to chemicals. Sawyer added Moyer only worked for a gas company for three months.
“They’ve wrecked Pennsylvania,” he said. “It’s ruined.”
Dr. Larysa Dyrszka spoke next, reviewing the basics of fracking and the ways it can impact people’s health. Dyrszka practiced general pediatrics before working for a United Nations committee and later becoming an affiliate member of Physicians Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy.
Dyrszka said the different symptoms displayed by people like Sawyer, Moyer, and Giovannini is what makes it hard for doctors to diagnose fracking related illnesses. She said fracking causes air pollution, exposure to radiation, and accidents. Dyrszka said part of the problem is nobody is collecting data about health impacts on a federal level.
In addition to nearby drilling, Dyrszka said people will be impacted if they are near where silica is mined (silica is used in some drilling processes), near the industry infrastructure, and where the water from drilling is sent. She explained exposure to silica particles can cause silicosis, which leads to cancer. Dyrszka said it’s a “preventable disease, but not curable.”
She also spoke about how industry workers are also likely to die, but not necessarily from health conditions. Dyrszka explained transportation accidents are the leading cause of fatalities in the mining industry. She added younger workers are more likely to die.