On the heels of an Environmental Health News (EHN) study, 35 members of the Pennsylvania House and Senate have issued a public letter calling on state Governor Tom Wolf to take "immediate action in response to the ongoing harm" from fracking.
The letter, led by State Senator Katie Muth and State Representatives Sara Innamorato, points to a study recently published by EHN that found evidence of exposure to harmful chemicals in families living near fracking wells.
"Recent studies, such as the multifamily investigation published by the Environmental Health News, highlight the true risk so many Pennsylvania families face due to toxic and radioactive contamination caused by fracking," said Senator Muth in a statement.
The two-year investigation, which is documented in a four-part series, found alarming evidence of toxic industrial chemicals linked to fracking in the urine of families living nearby, in addition to finding harmful chemicals like benzene, toluene, and naphthalene in the families' air and drinking water. Several children in the study had biomarkers for exposure to cancer-causing chemicals in their bodies at levels that exceed those seen in the average adult cigarette smoker.
The study, led by EHN reporter Kristina Marusic, is the first time families in western Pennsylvania have been tested for exposure to chemicals emitted from fracking operations—and only the second study nationwide to examine such impacts from oil and gas drilling.
"The initial outcomes are alarming in terms of the effects on the long-term health and safety of these residents," the lawmakers wrote. "This study adds to an ever-growing mountain of evidence comprising more than ten years of epidemiological studies from across the United States that demonstrate a connection between a person's proximity to shale gas development and a host of negative human health conditions, significant ecological impacts, and dire economic projections for the affected individuals."
The letter urges Governor Wolf to use the same biomonitoring techniques employed in EHN's investigation to conduct similar testing on a wider scale, and points out that last month the commissioners of the Delaware River Basin Commission, including Gov. Wolf, banned fracking in the Delaware River Basin, which includes parts of eastern Pennsylvania.
"That decision begs the question: Does this administration believe it has adequately protected Pennsylvanians from the harms of fracking?" the signatories asked. "Does this administration honestly believe that fracking is safe for our families? The people of Pennsylvania deserve answers to these questions."
Read the full letter here.
See the entire Fractured series.
Have you been impacted by fracking? We want to hear from you. Fill out our fracking impact survey and we'll be in touch.
Banner photo: Two of the children that were part of EHN's "Fractured" investigation in southwestern Pennsylvania. (Credit: Connor Mulvaney for Environmental Health News)
The letter, signed by 35 state representatives and senators, points to Environmental Health News testing that found harmful chemical exposures in Pennsylvania families