A group of Canadian doctors has called for a national moratorium on all new fracking operations.

The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) also urged an eventual phasing out of all existing such developments.

In a new report, Fractures in the Bridge: Unconventional (Fracked) Natural Gas, Climate Change and Human Health, environmental and health hazards associated with fracking are examined.

Fracking releases trapped natural gas deep beneath the Earth’s surface by blasting water, toxic chemicals, and sand at high pressure through drilled horizontal wells to fracture rock that is enclosing gas reserves.

Among the “frightening health impacts” associated with fracking are “adverse reproductive outcomes, low birth weight, birth defects, and leukemia in children exposed in utero.” The release of toxic chemicals into water and air and a fracking-related increase in earthquakes also received mention.

One of the most dire prospects for the environment concerns the leakage of methane from fracking operations. As a climate-warming greenhouse gas, methane is 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, which is often portrayed as the chief villain in human-caused global warming and climate change.

Methane comprises almost 100 percent of natural gas.

During the past decade around the world, about two-thirds of the natural gas produced has come from so-called shale gas that has been fracked in Canada and the U.S.; more than 70 percent of the gas produced in Canada comes from fracking sites. Most of those developments are in northeast British Columbia.

CAPE board member and Vancouver family physician Dr. Larry Barzelai addressed those climate concerns: “Fracking for natural gas in B.C. is catastrophic news for climate change. Global methane levels have been steadily escalating over the last decade and new evidence points the finger at fracking.”

CAPE executive director Robin Edger urged the federal government to abolish fracking in Canada: “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,” he said. “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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