Our Testimony to the EPA’s Scientific Advisory Board on Its Assessment of Fracking’s Impacts on Drinking Water

Karuna Jaggar 2015Back in August, we asked you to submit comments to the EPA about its draft assessment on fracking’s impacts on our drinking water—and ultimately our health. Today, the Scientific Advisory Board held a public teleconference as it continues to review this assessment. Our executive director Karuna Jaggar gave the following public testimony at this teleconference to bring your voices to the Board to demand they urge the EPA to conclude that fracking is not safe for our health!

Hello, my name is Karuna Jaggar, and I’m the executive director of Breast Cancer Action, a national activist organization working to address and end the breast cancer epidemic. I’m speaking today on behalf of the tens of thousands of Breast Cancer Action members across the country who are deeply concerned about the health impact of fracking on our drinking water.

Breast cancer is a public health crisis. Each year, nearly a quarter of a million women are diagnosed with invasive breast cancer and 40,000 women die of the disease. The chance a woman will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in her lifetime has risen over the last fifty years from 1-in-20 in the 1960s, to 1-in-8 today.

Most women diagnosed with breast cancer do not have any known risk factors and scientific evidence points to the role of environmental exposures in the breast cancer epidemic. In 2010, the President’s Cancer Panel stated that it was “concerned to find that the true burden of environmentally-induced cancer has been grossly underestimated.”

The health problems associated with environmental exposures are not limited to breast cancer. Childhood cancer rates are rising along with other diseases and disorders linked to environmental exposures. Clearly drinking water must be protected from harmful chemical contamination.

The conclusions of EPA’s Assessment of the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas on Drinking Water Resources fails to adequately recognize the true risk that fracking poses to our drinking water—and thus our health. We must keep in mind that the fracking industry was allowed to play a major role in both designing the EPA’s study and controlling information.

And yet the EPA found multiple instances of drinking water contamination from fracking in its handful of case studies across the country. For example, well contamination was found in Wise County, Texas, which is one of the six counties in Texas with both the most intensive gas drilling and the highest breast cancer rates.

In addition to the fact that the EPA only assessed a handful of cases of contamination nationwide, their ability to do a thorough assessment was hampered by the fact that in more than 70 percent of disclosures from fracking companies, one or more chemicals are listed as confidential. This is especially alarming considering that we do know that roughly a quarter of chemicals used in fracking have been linked to cancer. This includes the chemical benzene—a known carcinogen, linked to male breast cancer, that has been found in the urine of workers exposed to fracking fluid. The EPA has set a maximum contaminant level goal for benzene in drinking water at zero.

Ultimately, the content of the report does not substantiate its conclusion as written. Given the evidence of contamination despite the study’s limitations, the Scientific Advisory Board must urge the EPA to reflect the true danger that fracking poses to our drinking water and public health. The burden of proof concerning fracking’s safety must not come at the expense of women living with and at risk of breast cancer.

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