Friday, September 30, 2022

Pitt School Of Public Health, PA Dept. Of Health Abruptly Pull Out Of Oct. 5 Public Meeting They Helped Convene On Studies Looking At Links Between Natural Gas Development And Childhood Cancer Rates

On September 30, the
Center for Coalfield Justice, Environmental Health Project, Physicians for Social Responsibility Pennsylvania, and FracTracker Alliance announced the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health and the state Department of Health said they would not participate in an October 5 public meeting they helped convene on studies looking at links between natural gas development and childhood cancer.

The meeting will still be held--  Click Here to register for both in-person and virtual options.

Three years ago, a group of parents whose children have been affected by rare cancers, including Ewing sarcoma, asked the state Department of Health to investigate childhood cancers being diagnosed at disproportionately high rates in Southwestern Pennsylvania, where shale gas drilling, fracking, and infrastructure buildout have occurred.

In 2019, Gov. Wolf ’s administration allocated $3 million on a pair of studies to explore the potential health effects of the natural gas industry, taking action after months of impassioned pleas by the families of childhood cancer patients who live in the most heavily drilled region of the state. 

Those studies, called the PA Health and Environment Studies, have been underway for two years.

Though study results are not yet available, the Center for Coalfield Justice, Environmental Health Project, Physicians for Social Responsibility Pennsylvania, and FracTracker Alliance collaborated for months with representatives from the state Department of Health and researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health to organize a public meeting on October 5 in Canonsburg

Researchers were set to explain the study process to the public and take questions from community members. 

This meeting was to be the first time since the launch of the studies that parents and community members would have the opportunity to learn from the institutions conducting the studies. 

Then suddenly this week, both the University of Pittsburgh and the Department of Health backed out of attending the public meeting. 

“It is reasonable for community residents and pediatricians like me to be concerned that fracking may be to blame for the spike in rare childhood cancers and other health impacts in Southwestern Pennsylvania,” said Dr. Ned Ketyer, former member of the External Advisory Board for the studies, and president of Physicians for Social Responsibility Pennsylvania. “Dozens of scientific and medical studies support those concerns. Community members are demanding answers. Unfortunately, the decision by the PA DOH and University of Pittsburgh to withdraw their commitment and not attend the public meeting on October 5 effectively silences those important voices and keeps the community in the dark.”

Today, four members of the studies’ External Advisory Board resigned their positions, citing resistance to accountability and transparency to community members. 

As described in the invitation from The University of Pittsburgh to join the advisory board, these health and community leaders were asked to participate because of their “role as a trusted member of the potentially impacted community represented within [the] study region” and to “ensure necessary scientific integrity, transparency, and credibility for the studies[.]” 

“Parents deserve to hear from these institutions,” said Heaven Sensky, former  External Advisory Board Co-Chair and Organizing Director at the Center for Coalfield Justice. “More than 100 community members are already planning to attend the meeting. Participating in this public forum was the bare minimum these agencies and research institutions could do to provide information to grieving parents and concerned community members. But now, they won’t even do that. Yet again, powerful institutions show they are more interested in pleasing their industry donors and political backers than ensuring our children grow up free from preventable disease, and as a result it falls upon our community organizations to fill the gap and answer people’s questions.” 

Lois Bower-Bjornson, a resident of Washington County, said, “As a mother living surrounded by fracking with children who have health impacts, this issue is scary and results in an emotional response. 

The purpose of this meeting was to ensure community members understand the process of the study. 

Even though trusted institutions are failing to show up for us, I encourage you to still join and hear from your neighbors and community groups to submit your questions. 

This meeting is about protecting the health of my children and community.” 

Oct. 5 Meeting Will Go On

Even though the University of Pittsburgh and the Department of Health are no longer attending, the meeting will still take place on October 5 at 5:30 p.m. at the Yoney Pavilion at Canonsburg Town Park. 

Click Here to register for both in-person and virtual options.

The meeting will give attendees the opportunity to learn more about the PA Health and Environment Study and other environmental studies that have been conducted in the community. Families can have a discussion about what is known from previous research and how they can use that information to protect their children’s health. 

Any questions that cannot be answered by participating organizations will be directed to the University of Pittsburgh research team and the state Department of Health. 

Visit the University Of Pittsburgh’s PA Health and Environment Studies webpage for more background.


-- Pittsburgh Business Times: Organizers Say University Of Pittsburgh, State Dept. Of Health Pulled Out Of Public Meeting On Natural Gas Health Studies

-- StateImpactPA - Reid Frazier: University Of Pittsburgh, PA Health Dept. No Longer Part Of Oct. 5 Public Forum On Fracking Health Studies, Organizers Say

Related Article On Oct. 5 Meeting:

-- Center For Coalfield Justice Hosts Oct. 5 In-Person, Virtual Public Meeting On PA Health Studies Of Natural Gas Development In Southwest PA

University Of Pittsburgh - 3 Health Studies:

-- Center For Coalfield Justice Hosts Oct. 5 Public Meeting On PA Health Studies Of Natural Gas Development In Southwest PA  [PaEN]

-- University Of Pittsburgh School Of Public Health Recruiting Families In Southwest PA For Study Of Childhood Cancer, One Of 3 Studies Of Potential Health Impacts Linked To Shale Natural Gas Development [PaEN]

Related Articles:

-- Dept. Of Health Awards $2.5 Million Contract To University of Pittsburgh To Research Health Effects Of Hydraulic Fracturing In PA [PaEN]

-- Health Advocacy Groups Meet With State Dept. Of Health, DEP To Discuss Residents Impacted By Shale Gas Emissions [PaEN]

-- Dept. Of Health Visits Communities And Families Impacted By Shale Gas Development, Hears Firsthand Accounts Of Health Harms [PaEN]

-- Environmental Health Project: PA’s Natural Gas Boom - What Went Wrong? Why Does It Matter?  What Can We Do Better To Protect Public Health?  [PaEN]

-- Senate Hearing: Body Of Evidence Is 'Large, Growing,’ ‘Consistent’ And 'Compelling' That Shale Gas Development Is Having A Negative Impact On Public Health; PA Must Act  [PaEN]

Related Articles This Week:

-- DEP Issues 2 NOVs Against PA General Energy For Water Pollution Discharges Into The Loyalsock Creek From Gas Pipeline/Water Withdraw Construction In Lycoming County  [PaEN] 

-- Final Reg. Reducing Methane From Conventional Oil & Gas Facilities NOT On Environmental Quality Board Agenda For Oct. 12; Will Consider Final PFOS/PFOA MCL Rule  [PaEN]

-- DEP Posts First Invitation For Bids For Plugging 79 Conventional Natural Gas Wells In Allegheny, Butler, McKean, Potter Counties Under Federally-Funded Program  [PaEN]

-- DEP/Susquehanna River Basin Commission Public Notices -- Oil & Gas Industrial Facilities  [PaEN]

-- Forbes: U.S. Natural Gas Production Set New Record, But Don’t Expect Relief On Your Heating Bills [LNG Exports Link U.S./PA To High Prices]  [PaEN]

-- DEP Now Accepting Applications For Cooking In Healthy Electrified Commercial Kitchens Rebate Program; 3 Cooking In Energy Efficient Kitchens Webinars   [PaEN] 

-- FracTracker Alliance Accepting Nominations For 2022 Community Sentinel Awards  [PaEN]

[Posted: September 30, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

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