Doctors release new report calling again for moratorium on fracking in Canada

Report by Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment connects lived experience near fracking sites in Northeastern British Columbia with health effects

Vancouver | Unceded traditional territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations, December 21, 2022 – In the wake of British Columbia’s 2022 Climate Change Accountability Report which reveals that the province is on course to miss two near-term climate targets in 2025 and 2030, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) releases today Communities in Flux – Fracking and Health Impacts: The Lived Experience, a report connecting lived experience near fracking sites in Northeastern British Columbia with health effects.

CAPE’s new report relies on local, qualitative data generated through interviews and survey data with people residing in Northeastern B.C. near well sites with unconventional oil and gas (UOG) operations, which include hydraulic fracturing techniques – commonly referred to as ‘fracking’, to provide a portrait of the different types of health and community-level impacts lived near such sites. Three overarching narratives as described in the report provide insights on necessary actions to address health concerns for residents in the short and long term: 1) constancy, stress, and sensory experiences; 2) reported symptoms and health conditions; 3) community-level impacts. The report is not conclusive evidence of health impacts associated with fracking; it adds to previously identified research gaps and appeals for education and advocacy.

In 2020, CAPE released the report Fractures in the Bridge: Unconventional (Fracked) Natural Gas, Climate Change and Human Health which highlighted the serious health and environmental dangers of fracking, including links to birth defects, cancer, air pollution, and global warming. The report called for a moratorium on all new fracking development across Canada, along with the phase-out of existing fracking operations. 

Dr. Melissa Lem, Vancouver family physician, clinical assistant professor at the University of British Columbia, CAPE President, and a report reviewer says: “This report makes it devastatingly clear how harmful fracking is for people’s health in this province. These aren’t just numbers and statistics—these are real families, and real communities. For our health, our environment and our climate, fracking for natural gas must end in British Columbia.”

Dr. Larry Barzelai, Vancouver family physician, assistant professor at the University of British Columbia, chair of CAPE’s B.C. Committee, and a report reviewer says: “Our report, Communities in Flux, highlights the adverse health effects suffered by people living in BC’s Peace Region. Studies demonstrate increased rates of childhood leukemia, low birth weight babies and congenital birth defects in people living in proximity to fracking. The Coastal GasLink pipeline, designed to transport natural gas to the coast, is negatively affecting the well-being of at least one indigenous community. Increasing natural gas use will make it impossible for BC to meet its climate targets in addition to dramatically worsening climate change. We need a better approach.”

Dr. Margaret McGregor, Vancouver family physician, health services researcher, clinical associate professor at the University of British Columbia Faculty of Medicine’s Department of Family Practice, member of CAPE’s B.C. Committee, and a report reviewer says: “The lived experience of those living close to fracking highlighted in this report is consistent with the increasing number of published biomedical studies reporting harmful health effects of exposure to this industry.”

Based on individual and community-level health impacts, the authors conclude the report with nine recommendations, among others: 1) instituting a moratorium on the development of new natural gas wells across Canada; 2) phasing-out of existing wells and infrastructure; 3) immediately ceasing government subsidies to UOG. A complete list of recommendations is detailed in the report

The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) is a physician-directed non-profit organization working to secure human health by protecting the planet. Since its founding in 1994, CAPE’s work has achieved substantial policy victories in collaboration with many partners in the environmental and health movements. From coast to coast to coast, the organization operates throughout the country with regional committees active in most provinces and all territories. 

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Media Contact:

Pamela Daoust
National Communications Director
Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment
647-762-9168 | pamela@cape.ca

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