If I were a local leader (senator, representative, mayor, for example), I would be concerned about the fact that Bassett Hospital, teaching facility for Columbia Medical School, one of the premier cancer research centers in the nation, issued a warning against hydrofracking (The Daily Star, March 9, 2009).
The warning was issued in separate resolutions by both the Board of Trustees and by the 274-member medical staff (mostly physicians). The resolutions state in part that hydrofracking constitutes “an unacceptable threat to the health of our patients, and should be prohibited until such time as it is proven to be safe.”
Supporters of hydrofracking immediately pointed out that many of these physicians are landowners and are just out to protect their own interests. But wouldn’t it be more in their self-interest to try to cash in on the plunder of natural gas like other landowners? By this same cynical argument, aren’t they working against their own self-interests by warning against something that might fill hospital beds and increase profits for the hospital?
Medical doctors may not know much about geology or the petroleum industry, but they do know about cancer and they also know that many of the chemicals involved in fracking are known carcinogens. And it’s not just commercial fracking fluid that is the problem. The material released underground that comes gushing to the surface includes radiactivity as well as benzene-derivatives, proven carcinogens.
Spills are inevitable. We all know this. Even a small spill or leak containing petroleum compounds could cause widespread contamination (especially if it got into the ground water). It is a safe bet that, as fracking for natural gas begins in earnest in this area, cancer rates go up. Future generations will curse us. Is it worth it? Our doctors say no.
Stanley K. Sessions
Sessions is a biology professor
at Hartwick College.