Doctors Want State Investigation Into Fracking Claims

Does Pa. Department of Health have policy to play down health complaints from gas drilling?

ThinkProgress reports that doctors from around the state are urging an investigation into reports that the Pennsylvania Department of Health has a policy “never to talk to residents who complain of negative health effects from fracking.”

The call for investigation was made in a letter sent Tuesday to Gov. Tom Corbett and other elected officials.

According to the letter:

Department of Health staff were specifically instructed not to respond to people who contacted them regarding health concerns related to the state’s unconventional natural gas extraction (or fracking). Instead, Department of Health employees were to refer these complaints to the Department’s Bureau of Epidemiology — different from any other health claim.

This practice could have limited the Department’s professional staff from accurately monitoring and responding to health problems related to our state’s unconventional gas industry. We are calling for a full investigation of the Department of Health’s response to fracking complaints, immediately open up past and future health complaints to the public, and ensure all future complaints are fully addressed.

ThinkProgress adds: “When it comes to fracking, the DOH has done little to prevent exposure or lead policy development,” Dr. Julie Becker, board member of Physicians for Social Responsibility, said in a statement. “The PA DOH does not provide accurate data to address the health needs of fracking communities, thereby hindering research, and permitting poor decisions to be made based on inaccurate information.”

StateImpact Pennsylvania concludes:

The department recently announced improvements to the way it handles environmental health complaints, including updates to its website and a written-letter policy.

The groups welcomed these initiatives, but said they also want the agency to release details about the 57 drilling-related complaints it has logged since 2011. Such inquiries are maintained by the department’s Bureau of Epidemiology, but have not been made public because they contain private information.

Read the full letter: