(EnergyAsia, December 20 2012, Thursday) — Citing potential heath damage to Americans, a group of 107 medical and scientific experts has petitioned the US government to stop hydraulic fracturing, or fracking of shale gas to support the growing movement to develop liquefied natural gas (LNG) for export.

One of the signatories was Louis W. Allstadt, a former executive vice president of Mobil Oil Corporation, who has switched from being a believer to critic of the shale gas industry.

In their petition to the White House, the experts said plans to rapidly approve and develop new LNG export terminals would require “a rapid increase in fracking in without credible science”.

The petition, facilitated by Physicians, Scientists, & Engineers for Healthy Energy (PSE), said:

“There is a growing body of evidence that unconventional natural gas extraction from shale (also known as fracking) may be associated with adverse health risks through exposure to polluted air, water, and soil. Public health researchers and medical professionals question the continuation of current levels of fracking without a full scientific understanding of the health implications.

“The opening of LNG export facilities would serve to accelerate fracking in the US in absence of sound scientific assessment, placing policy before health.”

Seth B. Shonkoff, the PSE’s executive director, Physicians, Scientists, and environmental researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, said:

“The question here is very simple: Why would the US dramatically increase the use of an energy extraction method without first ensuring that the trade-off is not the health of Americans in exchange for the energy demands of foreign nations?

“Health professionals are coming together today to urge the White House to make sure that we have the facts prior to making this decision. The only prudent thing to do here is to conduct the needed research first.”

Adam Law, a physician at the Cayuga Medical Center in Ithaca, NY, and PSE member, said:

“Researchers are finding measurable levels of pollutants from this industry in air and water that are associated with the risk of illness. The first studies to describe this are entering the scientific literature and public health researchers are embarking on multiple approaches to study the associated adverse health effects.”

Madelon L. Finkel, professor of clinical public health, and director of the Office of Global Health Education, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York City, said:

“Natural gas has been in these shale formations for millions of years; it isn’t going anywhere and will be around for future generations. Society especially owes it to those living in areas with both active and planned drilling to study the potential for harm (to the environment and to human and animal health) and to act to reduce those factors that are shown to increase the risk of disease and even death.”

Louis W. Allstadt, a former executive vice president of Mobil Oil Corporation, Cooperstown, NY, said:

“The current unconventional oil and gas drilling process using High Volume Horizontal Hydro-Fracturing is a much more intensive industrial activity than conventional drilling, which was the norm until about 10 years ago. It requires far greater volumes of water and chemicals, as well as disposal of much larger volumes of toxic flow-back fluids. We need to fully study and understand the health effects of the significantly greater volumes of toxic materials that must be handled and disposed of with this process.”