Fracking companies have worked very hard to shield from public scrutiny and examination information about the toxic chemicals they are injecting into the environment. They have also resisted conducting health studies on the chemicals they use and have relied on non-disclosure agreements to suppress public discussion about the health issues related to fracking. This is one reason we know so little about the health effects of fracking.
To address these concerns, the Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility and other health and environmental groups have proposed that that Maryland require drilling companies to test the health effects of fracking chemicals before using them and that they report this information to a publicly accessible on-line database managed by the state and paid for by permitting fees.
We have also proposed that Maryland set up a process to allow health professionals to expeditiously obtain and share information needed to treat patients and to report public health concerns, and that it prohibit the use of non-disclosure agreements between drillers and local residents that restrict the ability of parties to disclose environmental or health issues associated with natural gas production.
To date the Maryland Department of the Environment has rejected every one of these common-sense proposals. Let's hope that if fracking ever comes to Maryland, the state will shift course and put the public's interest in assuring the safe and proper use of our natural resources ahead of the narrow commercial interests of the fracking companies.
Tim Whitehouse, Baltimore
The writer is executive director of Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility.
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