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Across U.S., Health Concerns Vie with Fracking Profits

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Organic Transitions page, Environment and Climate Resource Center page and our New York News page.

NEW YORK - Peter "Pete" Seeger is a 93-year old U.S. folk legend who resides near Wappingers Falls in southern New York. He can be spotted occasionally on the traffic-heavy Route 9, flanked by world peace signs and armed with a banjo.

Seeger is famous for his protest songs - which tackle topics ranging from U.S. wars abroad to environmental degradation at home.

Last month, Seeger signed a letter - along with hundreds of health professionals and local organisations - addressed to Governor Andrew Cuomo, encouraging him to take into account "any and all public health impacts before deciding whether or not to allow fracking in New York".

The letter - released to the public on Feb. 27 by Concerned Health Professionals of NY - warned of "public health consequences" that have emerged in neighbouring Pennsylvania, where fracking is allowed.

Formally termed "high pressure hydraulic fracturing", fracking is a method used to capture natural gas from shale rocks. It requires horizontal drilling deep beneath the earth's surface, then pressurising fluid to fracture shale rocks, which allows natural gas to escape.

According to the letter, health risks associated with fracking include hazardous air pollutants; improper disposal of radioactive wastewater; and climate-altering methane emissions.

"What they're finding in Pennsylvania are people with rashes, nosebleeds, people with serious abdominal pain and so on," said Sandra Steingraber, a distinguished scholar in residence at Ithaca College and founder of Concerned Health Professionals of NY.

"In general, we need better data on all this, and the problem is that fracking got rolled out across the landscape without any advanced health studies being done," she told IPS.

On Mar. 6, the New York State Assembly voted to extend the moratorium on fracking until 2015, which would delay drilling for two more years and make way for new health assessments to be conducted.


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