Over 500 physicians and nurses issue public health advisory

Enabling fracking/LNG industry fuels wildfires and harms public health

Unceded and ancestral territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations (Vancouver) – August 24, 2023 – Over 500 physicians and nurses across Canada – supported by a rapid-response campaign involving radio ads, a new educational website, LNGharms.ca, and an open letter to the B.C. government – are issuing a public health advisory about the harmful health implications of expansion of the fracking and liquified natural gas (LNG) industry in the province, which are helping to fuel the worst wildfire season B.C. has ever experienced.

The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) and the Canadian Association of Nurses for the Environment (CANE) are calling on the Province of B.C. to enact a moratorium on all new hydraulic fracturing development in order to complete an independent health impact assessment that comprehensively evaluates the health effects of fracking and LNG, including their impact on health harms related to climate change. The healthcare professionals also want stronger regulations and monitoring protocols to reduce air and water pollution from current operations and that these are governed independently from industry to ensure compliance and enforcement.

“Our health advisory draws a direct line between the LNG industry in B.C. and the devastating impacts of the massively disruptive wildfires we’re living through this summer,” says Dr. Melissa Lem, a Vancouver family physician and President of CAPE. “Patients across this province are experiencing higher rates of asthma exacerbations, heart disease, anxiety and depression, at great cost to our communities and the healthcare system,” she says, adding that the public health advisory will remain in place indefinitely.

Emissions from oil and gas operations contribute directly to wildfires, with the burning of fossil fuels making this year’s wildfires twice as likely and fire-prone weather more intense, as analyzed specifically in Quebec. Methane, the majority component of natural gas, leaks along the entire supply chain of LNG and fracking infrastructure, and is responsible for over 25 per cent of the global heating we are confronting today. In B.C., wildfires have destroyed 1.61 million hectares of land this year – more than five times the 10-year average.

Scientific evidence shows that fracking and gas production activities pose significant risks to public health, as do the impacts of climate change and extreme weather driven by them. In 2021, the International Energy Agency warned that any new fossil fuel development would jeopardize the world’s ability to stay within safe limits of global heating – yet new fossil gas projects continue to be built and approved within B.C.

“People in B.C. deserve to know – and to understand the impact on public health – that fracking currently has, and also how that will change if the B.C. government enables gas production to double over the next several years to feed six proposed LNG facilities,” says Dr. Kevin Liang, a young family physician who coordinated the public health advisory. “With each fracking well using and poisoning millions of gallons of fresh water amidst increasing drought driven by climate change, we are risking the health of current and future generations.”

Dr. Robert Stowe, a behavioural neurologist, neuropsychiatric genetics researcher and CAPE BC volunteer, says; “Right now expansion of the LNG industry is putting us on a deadly path to accelerate climate change, promote extreme heat events that we’ve seen kill our patients with chronic mental illness, release toxic compounds that can damage our brain health and DNA, and increase the risk of birth defects and cancer. Health and safety are clearly at risk and B.C. is on fire. Why is the B.C. government enabling fossil fuel industry expansion when a clean-energy economy is possible?”

“As healthcare professionals on the front lines, we are committed to collaborating with the provincial government to develop strategies that prioritize the health and safety of all who live in British Columbia. Continuing to tie in new buildings to planet-heating fossil gas, and failing to invest in meaningful supports for workers to train to transition to good, clean, sustainable jobs, will undermine this goal,” says Tessa Diaczun, a nurse practitioner and CANE volunteer.

CAPE and CANE request that healthcare professionals across Canada sign their open letter in support of a health advisory on LNG and fracking in B.C.: https://www.lngharms.ca/

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In B.C., fracking happens in the northeastern part of the province. Canadian fossil fuel producers Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. and Suncor Energy, which engage in fracking operations in B.C.,  are among the top 88 globally whose carbon emissions were responsible for 37 percent of the forested areas burned by fires in southwestern Canada and western U.S. since 1986. This recent study shows that as little as 0.2 percent of methane leakage can make natural gas as big a driver of climate change as coal. Research also shows that fugitive methane emissions rates from B.C. oil and gas facilities are actually 1.6 – 2.2 times higher than current federal inventory estimates.

About the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE)

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.

About the Canadian Association of Nurses for the Environment (CANE)

We promote planetary health among nurses and people of BC and globally. We achieve this by engaging with advocacy, education, research, practice, and policy.

Media Contact

Allison Murray, Communications Associate

T 604-442-1846

E allison@MurrayCommunications.org

For general inquiries to CAPE, please contact media@cape.ca or 647-762-9168.