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Fracking “Gag order” puts Pennsylvania docs in a bind

By Lillian Chiu
Posted Mar 28, 2012 in Health
Despite the known hazards of fracking chemicals, a new law is preventing Pennsylvania doctors from sharing information about them. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a process that extracts natural gas from rock formations by placing mass amounts of fluids under high pressure to induce cracks in the rock surface. The fluid contains an unsettling mix of chemicals, many of which are carcinogenic. The primary fear is that the process will contaminate residents’ drinking water, which researchers have demonstrated in the past (i.e. Duke University study).
In Pennsylvania, physicians have the right to know a company’s exact formula. However, the new “gag order” forces the doctors into a confidentiality agreement in which they agree to not disclose that information to anybody, even patients. According to Mother Jones the provision was not included during the initial debates, but managed to slip in later on without much notice.
Fracking is a highly debated topic; as critics continue to point out the dangers of the controversial process in hopes of budging legislature, the industry continues to dig in its heels, savoring its exemption from safety regulations. Fracking is exempt from numerous EPA regulations, with no legal obligation to disclose their noxious formula to the public. The industry insists the information is “proprietary”-but to some, that label is just a cloak. Walter Tsou, president of the Pennsylvania chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility said to Mother Jones, "What is the big secret here that they're unwilling to tell people, unless they know that if people found out what's really in these chemicals, they would be outraged?"
Key Points• A provision added to a law passed last month will “gag” doctors about fracking chemicals
• Fracking fluid contains chemicals that are known to be carcinogenic
• Fracking is highly controversial, especially since studies and films such as Gasland have shown that fracking activity is linked to contaminated drinking water
• Because of lobby efforts, the fracking industry is exempt from safety regulations such as the Safe Drinking Water Act

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