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.”


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