Natural Gas NOW
The Sixth Edition of the “Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking” proves to be a lot of nothing.
Our long-time friend Uni Blake, a toxicologist from Upstate New York, has long been an advocate of natural gas development in that impoverished part of the Empire State. She now does some writing for the American Petroleum Institute (API), but she was an advocate long before she ever became acquainted with the group. That was because, as a scientist, she knew economic security was a key to better health and the warnings coming from fractivists about natural gas development were sheer nonsense; none more so then the infamous “Compendium.”
The Sixth edition of the “Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking” is no exception, as Uni reports in this API blog post. You can’t expect much of a document that lumps “media findings” in with supposed science, but Uni demolishes what little credibility there might appear to be (emphasis added):
As a scientist myself, let me be clear: We must rely on real science as a basis for sound decision-making so that as we operate the public and the environment are protected. Unscientific material – such as opinion pieces, unfinished studies and misinformation campaigns – isn’t helpful to this process, creates false narratives and can skew public perceptions.
Earlier this summer, Physicians for Social Responsibility and Concerned Health Professionals of New York released the sixth edition of a compendium that purports to summarize more than 1,500 scientific reports, peer-reviewed studies and investigative journalism reports about threats to public health from industry’s activities.
A closer look, however, reveals that half of the references in the compendium are newspaper articles, blogs and other writings that aren’t considered scientific research or evidence by the scientific community or regulatory authorities.
Here’s the breakdown: 47% of the references are newspaper articles that review or reference the peer-reviewed literature or are investigative reports that include references to the compendium. The cited gray literature – non-peer reports and reviews put out by agencies, trades and non-governmental organizations – does not include original research.
The bottom line is that of the 1,477 documents referenced in the compendium, only 2% or 31 of the references represent “population studies” that could be considered directly informative by the scientific community. Population studies potentially offer clues about associations between health outcomes and industry activities.
Those 31 population studies were recently reviewed by the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PDH) and the Colorado of Department of Public Health and Environment using a scientific method for evaluating weight of evidence.
The two state health agencies concluded that limitations in the existing epidemiology studies “make it difficult to establish clear links between exposures to substances potentially emitted directly from ONG (oil and natural gas) operations and the health outcomes evaluated.” They recommended more robust studies, particularly those with more accurate exposure measures, to scientifically determine whether there are any correlations. Dr. Rachel Levine of the PDH noted in a statement to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
“As a pediatrician and a public health advocate, the public can rest assured that if I knew that we were inadequately protecting public health, I would make that case clear to Governor Wolf …… But I believe that we do not have enough information to make such a determination in this case.”
Not every research study contributes to addressing the very complex questions about health. Some studies and reports provide only a partial picture, while others simply aren’t relevant scientifically.
Newspaper stories, editorials and other opinion pieces often are not science-based and don’t provide rigorous information and unbiased analysis. It’s something to keep in mind, with some trying to impact the public conversation about health and safety associated with our industry’s operations.
Uni puts her finger directly on what’s wrong with the Compendium; it’s nothing more than a media echo chamber. Fractivists make wild assertions that are reported by an empathetic press. These stories are then collected as “evidence” and amplified via a “Compendium” intended to support the original fractivist assertions, and start the process all over again. The “Compendium” is the sham of all shams.