A group of health professionals launched the Concerned Health Professionals of Ireland (CHPI) to a packed room in Buswells Hotel Dublin May 18th. The campaign is based on a growing network of health providers opposed to fracking, a model successfully used to achieve a ban in New York. The group launched a new website that includes a petition for health professionals to call on government on both sides of the border to implement a ban.
TDs that attended included Joan Collins, (ULA) Eamon Scanlon (FF) Eamon Ryan (Green Party) Martin Kenny (SF) and Maureen O Sullivan (IND). Richard Boyd Barret (PBP) was present and had spoken about fracking in the Dail earlier that day where concerns were raised about the first drill on the island of Ireland in Woodburn Forest, near Belfast.
Carroll O Dolan, a GP from Cavan spoke about the many recorded negative health impacts associated with fracking, based on peer-reviewed research that now exists. “It’s a fact that fracking damages health. Its not just rumour” he said
He said that for years these negative environmental and health impact were dished out by the oil and gas industry on developing countries but it was now coming to Ireland. “Our brothers and sisters have been exposed to this for a long time”
A discussion on the status of the EPA study being carried out by oil/gas industry service providers CDM Smith, referred to how the study was stalled at this time and that a report will be completed in the Autumn, whereupon a decision on whether to proceed or not will be made from it.
Dr Paula Gilvarry public health doctor talked about the public health risks of smoking, alcohol and road safety and government spending on health intervention initiatives. In relation to fracking, the best way to protect human health she felt was not to start it.
‘We know Fracking is dangerous. We don’t have to do much except, don’t do it!”
She spoke about the importance of clean water and Irelands green image. Cryptosporidium instances gave for many people an insight into how dirty water can cause real distress. But benzene she said ‘can kill’.
Susan Carton (nursing lecturer) explained that while some people in Ireland had to get used to boil water notices, for many Pennsylvania residents living in areas where fracking is taking place peoples health is directly threatened. Some of the recommendations of a health promotion agency in south western Pennsylvania included that residents should use bottled water as a rule, take off their shoes when entering their home leaving contaminated soil outside, check symptoms of themselves and family members, and call a doctor if bathing caused rashes.
Paula Gilvarry had reviewed the situation and felt that communities were the losers in fracking
“It’s a no brainer. It’s all about the money for these wealthy corporations
You cant put a price on health. It’s a short-term gain for the industry and a long-term loss for communities’
The drill site in Woodburn was never far from the room and concern was raised by TD Richard Boyd Barrett that this was setting a precedent. The audience heard that the drill in Northern Ireland had begun with a lack of proper planning and it was fracking coming through the back door into Ireland. There was a call from the floor to do more to support their Northern Ireland colleagues.
Carroll O Dolan referred to the constant onslaught by the industry on communities and warned.
“ The industry hasn’t gone away they are just regrouping.”
He appealed to his health colleagues to review the information presented to them and sign the petition calling for a ban.
“But bottom line is you can’t regulate this industry such that it does not have significant harm on human health. And that’s why I wish my fellow health professionals to read the information and come to the same conclusions. ‘
The website is now live on www.chpi.ie