ALBANY, N.Y. — Having said he wants science to drive the decision on whether to open the state to natural gas hydrofracking, Gov. Andrew Cuomo got a telephone book-sized dose of science dropped on his desk Thursday by two health groups that want to keep out fracking.
Speculation is mounting that the long-awaited state Health Department study on fracking's potential public health risks could be released soon, and the governor roiled some anti-fracking groups recently when he suggested that there were "credentialed academics" on both sides of the politically contentious issue.
In response, two groups—Concerned Health Professionals of New York and Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Health Energy—pulled together information on a growing body of health studies that have been issued since 2009, when the state Department of Environmental Conservation first issued its potential environmental roadmap for fracking.
That year, there were six peer-reviewed studies on how fracking, which uses a high-pressure mix of water, chemicals and sand to break up gas-bearing underground rock formations, could affect air and water quality. Another six such studies were added in 2010, when then-Gov. David Paterson issued an executive order imposing a fracking moratorium.
There were 32 more fracking health studies in 2011, 66 more in 2012, and 139 more in 2013, when the state Health Department was ordered to conduct its health fracking study. By the end of November 2014, there were another 154 such peer-reviewed studies, according to the PSE study.
Of health-related papers, 96 percent cited potential health risks from fracking, according to the study. For air-quality related papers, 95 percent found elevated pollution from fracking; for water-quality related papers, three-quarters found evidence of water pollution.
''The growth in science examining fracking is exponential. We are adding roughly a study a day. And three-quarters of all these scientific papers have been done within the last two years," said Sheila Bushkin-Bedient, a health researcher with the Institute for Health and Environment at the University at Albany, and member of Concerned Health Professionals of New York.
The group produced its own 103-page study that compiles available science, along with government and industry reports and journalism investigations. This is the second edition of the study; it contains 80 additional studies new since the first edition came out in July 2014.
The studies point to "Many areas of serious concern to public health, water, the environment and economic vitality," said Bushkin-Bedient. "Science is still catching up to the rapid expansion of fracking, but what we know already is deeply disconcerting ...The alarming weight of evidence is strongly on the side of caution."
Bushkin-Bedient recently co-authored a study published this month in the journal Environmental Health that said human exposure to chemicals associated with fracking has caused developmental abnormalities in the reproductive organs of unborn children. Another member of Concerned Health Professionals, Yuri Gorby, who is an associate professor and Blitman chair in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, said, "The rapidly emerging science on drilling and fracking increasingly supports many earlier anecdotal reports of harm ... The science on fracking is still young. We are confident that another three to five years will seal the deal."