Doctors release new report calling for moratorium on fracking in Canada
Report by Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment highlights serious
health and environmental dangers associated with fracked natural gas, including links to
birth defects, cancer, air pollution, and global warming
Toronto, January 29, 2020 – The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment
(CAPE) today released a new report calling for a moratorium on all new fracking
development across Canada, along with the phase-out of existing fracking operations.
The report, “Fractures in the Bridge: Unconventional (Fracked) Natural Gas, Climate
Change and Human Health,” highlights the serious health and environmental dangers of
fracking, a relatively new process used across North America to extract natural gas from
reserves that are embedded in impermeable rock. These buried natural gas reserves are
accessed by drilling deep horizontal wells and blasting water, sand, and toxic chemicals
at high pressure through the rock, creating fractures in order to release the gas.
The frightening health impacts that have been associated with fracking and natural gas
extraction include adverse reproductive outcomes, low birth weight, birth defects, and
leukemia in children exposed in utero. Among the numerous environmental and safety
impacts are increased climate emissions, release of toxic chemicals into air and water
supplies, destruction of nature, social disruption of communities, and an increase in
Five provinces in Canada and six US states have adopted a moratorium on fracked gas,
along with Bulgaria, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Uruguay, Northern
Ireland, Scotland, England, and Wales.
“Credible science suggests that fracking is dangerous to our health and detrimental to
our environment. We must urgently place a moratorium on all fracking in Canada to
protect the health and safety of Canadians, and meet our emissions targets under the
Paris Agreement,” says Dr. Éric Notebaert, CAPE Member and advisor on the report. Dr.
Notebaert is an emergency physician in Montreal.
“Many adverse health effects have been identified in studies directed at fracking
operations but the strongest evidence is for negative impacts on pregnancy and birth
outcomes and the aggravation of asthma,” he says. “The evidence for low birth weight is
quite strong, which is disturbing, as low birth weight is an indicator for a number of
serious health impacts including developmental deficits in children and increased rates
of cardiovascular disease in later life. There is also reason to believe that fracking
increases the risk of leukemia among children whose mothers are exposed during
About two thirds of the natural gas produced globally over the last decade has been
shale gas produced in Canada and the United States using fracking. In 2018, about 71
per cent of natural gas produced in Canada was unconventional gas from fracking. Most
of that came from Northeastern BC. Natural gas is composed almost entirely of methane
which is 86 times more powerful as a climate warming agent than carbon dioxide.
Emerging evidence shows that much more methane is leaking from these fracking
processes than was previously estimated.
“Fracking for natural gas in BC is catastrophic news for climate change,” says Dr. Larry
Barzelai, family physician in Vancouver and CAPE Board Member. “Global methane
levels have been steadily escalating over the last decade and new evidence points the
finger at fracking.”
Fracking, which is a water-intensive exercise, can also put pressure on local water tables
and contaminate water supplies. It involves the injection of chemicals – a number of
which are very toxic – into the ground, which can result in contamination. Fracking also
causes air pollutants to leak from the fractured rock, fracking wells, flares, and diesel
equipment used for fracking.
Robin Edger, CAPE Executive Director, emphasizes that we can no longer treat natural
gas as a bridge fuel to a carbon neutral economy.
“Natural gas is a fossil fuel that is feeding the climate crisis, compromising our ability to
meet our commitments under the 2015 Paris Agreement, and threatening our ability to
avoid catastrophic levels of climate change,” Edger says. “Fracking threatens our health
and is contributing to climate change. The only responsible step for government is to
ban it outright.”
To download the report, visit: https://cape.ca/cape-fracking-report-en/
To download a backgrounder, visit: https://cape.ca/cape-fracking-bkg-en/