Tuesday, January 10, 2012


EXPOSURE to gas drilling operations is strongly linked to serious health problems in humans, pets, livestock and other animals, a new US study has found.

Australian environmentalists say the study shows the need for caution in opening the country up to coal seam gas (CSG) extraction.

University of Massachusetts researchers interviewed 24 US farmers affected by shale gas drilling and found the practice was "strongly implicated" in serious health problems in humans and animals.

In one case, 17 cows died in one hour from respiratory failure after shale gas fracking fluids were accidentally released into an adjacent paddock.

Fracking refers to the controversial method of injecting chemicals, water and sand at high pressures to crack rock and release gas.

On another farm, 70 of 140 cattle exposed to wastewater from fracking died, as did a number of cats and dogs from a neighbourhood where wastewater was spread on roads as a method of disposal.

The study also cites a case in which a child was hospitalised with arsenic poisoning soon after drilling and fracking began near their home.

Occupants of another home near gas wells suffered headaches, nosebleeds and rashes, and their hearing and sense of smell was affected.

The study's authors recommend more research into the effects of shale gas extraction in the US, or a total ban on the practice.

NSW Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham says the study shows the need for caution in the expansion of CSG mining in the state.

"Many of the methods, chemicals and techniques used in US conventional and unconventional gas extraction are the same as those used in Australia with coal seam gas," he said in a statement.

The National Toxics Network called on Australia's state governments to conduct a full assessment of the impacts of CSG on animals living close to gas wells.

"We know so little about the long term impacts on the health of wildlife and farm animals of this industry," the network's senior adviser Mariann Lloyd-Smith said in a statement.

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