PITTSBURGH, June 8, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- During a press conference today near an elementary school that borders a Marcellus Shale drilling site, representatives from Moms Clean Air Force, Women for a Healthy Environment and the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project joined a radiation oncologist who is examining the health impacts of natural gas drilling to urge policymakers to implement stronger drilling regulations in areas in close proximity to schools.
Specifically, the groups are working to educate the public about potential health risks from exposure to methane, which is emitted into the air during hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" at natural gas drilling operations. Stronger regulations are needed for methane emission controls, but also regarding the distance between well pads and schools and playgrounds.
"There is growing concern among citizens and researchers alike that exposure to the methane emissions released from fracking can cause health problems," said Crystal Yost, PA Field Organizer, Moms Clean Air Force. "I was born and raised in a community where we were exposed for decades to carcinogens from industrial pollution. I don't want my children, or any child, to suffer later because we are not doing enough now to regulate this industry."
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to issue new rules to control methane emissions later this year. Raina Rippel, Director of Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project and a regional leader on the topic of shale-related public health impacts, urged the agency to include strong protections from fracking pollution in those rules.
Michelle Nacarrati-Chapkis, Executive Director of Women for a Healthy Environment said the oil and gas industry and petroleum systems are the largest source for methane gas emissions. She demonstrated during the press conference the alarming number of well pads near schools in Pennsylvania and across the country.
"We want our state and national leaders to enact legislation that keeps well pads away from schools and playgrounds. We are working to raise awareness about our collective concerns that in some areas, drilling sites are too close to where children learn or play," said Nacarrati-Chapkis.
Yost said a University of Pittsburgh study released last week used birth records from Butler County to determine if a link exists between low birth weight and a mother's proximity to natural gas wells. The conclusion of that study underscores the need for stronger regulations, but the industry is fighting revisions to Pennsylvania's oil and gas regulations she said.
"Pound for pound, methane pollution is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period," said Yost. "It is up to us to stand strong against polluters to protect our children's right to clean air and a stable climate."
In addition to concerns regarding potential health risks for children exposed to methane emissions as a result of hydraulic fracturing, the groups are raising awareness about children being near the epicenter of a well explosion or other emergencies that require an evacuation.
Marsha Haley, MD, a radiation oncologist at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC and a Clinical Assistant professor at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, is part of a national working group researching the environmental impacts of natural gas drilling. She said a natural gas well is being constructed one-half mile from her daughter's school.
"A majority of the literature I've studied shows that fracking has significant health risks that are not mitigated by current setback distances between the wells and the public," said Haley. "This is especially concerning for children, whose little bodies are more susceptible to air pollutants. As a parent and a physician, I want to see policy solutions."
With more than 20,000 members in Pennsylvania, Moms Clean Air Force is a community of hundreds of thousands of moms---and dads!---working together to combat air pollution, including the urgent crisis of our changing climate.
SOURCE Moms Clean Air Force