Protect PT has been participating in the public hearing for the Titan Well Pad in Murrysville on behalf of our members in that area. On Wednesday, Aug. 7, Protect PT began presenting expert testimony on public health impacts from Unconventional Natural Gas Development (UNGD).
Laura Dagley, a medical advocacy coordinator for the Pennsylvania branch of Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), testified to the public health concerns surrounding the fracking industry. Dagley said PSR advocates for patients’ health, especially when that health is impacted by things that are outside patients’ control, such as air quality. Dagley explained the precautionary principle, saying that public health experts look for correlation more than causation. Causation is hard to pinpoint, and by the time it is proven, it is often too late to change it.
“One study is not enough,” Dagley said. “You have to look at the overall trend in studies.” She said one health study saying that there are no impacts doesn’t mean anything if a large percentage of studies show impacts to public health. Eighty-four percent of studies show that negative public health impacts are happening around UNGD, Dagley said. Some of these impacts include increased respiratory problems and dermatological problems caused by poor air quality around UNGD.
Another major health impact Dagley mentioned was noise.
“The definition of noise is unwanted sound,” Dagley said. She explained that when considering public health impacts from noise, that is different than looking at impacts from sound. For example, the sound of crickets can become loud enough to cause hearing loss (at high enough decibel level). However, health impacts from noise are more far-reaching. For example, even low decibel levels of low frequency noises (such as the ones occurring in unconventional natural gas development) can cause sleep disturbances, depression, anxiety and other health impacts.
Dagley also spoke about the risks and benefits of bringing in this industry, saying that the residents assume all the risk, yet they see very little if any of the benefits. Thus, she said she believes that halting the proposed development would be in the best interest of the residents.
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