Gas industry gags medical doctors

What are the chances that we could avoid this in South Africa? Community health sacrificed for company information and profits? Is this surprising? Can we expect the Department of Minerals to represent the mining companies or our citizens?

State law inspired book on fracking

Published: August 4, 2013

A state law preventing doctors from telling patients what chemicals they were exposed to from natural gas operations motivated Walter Brasch to write a book.

“Fracking Pennsylvania: Flirting with Disaster” contains the information that Brasch found after looking into the gas industry, an investigation that began when Pennsylvania enacted Act 13 of 2012.

A provision of the act allows doctors to ask companies what chemicals they use in fracking fluids injected into underground gas wells, but a strict reading of the law forbids them from telling what they learn to patients or the community.

A doctor might find out his patient is sick from a chemical used in the process, whereas another doctor might remain clueless about the illness of a patient in the same neighborhood, Brasch said.

“In public health, you need to know the clusters and patterns,” Brash said in an interview.

He said the fluids injected with sand and water deep into the ground to fracture rock and release natural gas vary from area to area. Once a company signs a lease, no other company needs the formula for that area, yet the industry protects the formulas as trade secrets.

“If they don’t tell us what’s in it, how do we combat accidents? I think they don’t want to tell us how toxic this stuff is,” Brasch said.

A report done for the U.S. House of Representatives in April 2011 said about 650 of 750 chemicals known to be used in fracking cause cancer, his book reports.

The book tells of a nurse in an emergency room who went into organ failure after being exposed to the clothes of a worker splashed by fracking fluid in Durango, Colo., in 2008. She nearly died, but the gas company threatened to pull its proprietary products out of Colorado if forced to reveal their contents.

The gas industry is exempt from a national right-to-know law, which lets people learn what chemicals and toxins are used at facilities.

3 responses

  1. The government is run by a president not proven innocent of fraud charges, and whose family is constantly being enriched by his corporate links. (Guptas). He has put Mogoeng in charge of our Judiciary, a yes-man to even the most partisan of commentators. So will the courts side with our civil liberties when it comes to crunch? Gas Corporations versus individual rights and the need for a safe ecological environment? Of course not. In the hands of these carrion, democracy is just a broom with which the room of their greed will be swept. The courts will become a rubber stamp for those that control governments; the corporates like Shell. Its nothing new.

    Either democracy gets intensified and recovers its functionality or activists will have to come up with other plans.

  2. Hi, I would like to know:
    1) What is the qualifications of Walter Brasch ?
    2) Over what period did Brasch investigate the operations under act 13/2012?
    3) Does a liberal reading of the law instead of a “strict reading” allow for a different interpretation? Which is legally accepted?
    4) Would the same non-disclosure laws apply in SA with regards to the chemicals used in fracking?
    5) Are there any operational reasons for fracking companies why they don’t want to disclose the chemicals used in fracking, ie. trade secrets?
    6) Are there any factual basis for Brasch to state that chemicals used in fracking are toxic?
    7) Was the report submitted to the House of Representatives accepted as factually and scientifically correct?
    8) Did any other person who came into contact with the worker nearly die as the nurse almost did?
    9) Would fracking companies in SA also be exempted from right to know legislation?

    • A brilliant list of questions Hugo. 1. Probably available on Google. 2. Buy the book, or email Brasch. 3. A question for attorneys to answer. 4. Don’t know, everything about the government’s and Shell’s plans are kept secret by Minister Shabangu. 5. Trade secrets? more likely the toxic mix. 6. Are you serious? 7. The author must have thought so – evidently. 8. Question for Brasch or the hospital. 9. Can’t answer – everything in SA about government plans (except bullish statements about court) is a secret – perhaps you can get an answer out of them for us both? And finally, a question of my own: “Are you of the opinion that everything that Brasch stands for and that he has written is invalidated by questions that you raise?”

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