An editorial in the Philadelphia Daily News criticizes the gas industry and its allies in Pennsylvania's state government for placing a gag order on doctors regarding the chemicals used in gas drilling operations.
"What are they afraid of?" the editorial asks. "That's the obvious question that arises from yet another move by the fracking industry, and their BFFs in Pennsylvania government, to keep secret ('proprietary,' if you will) the toxic chemicals that they are injecting into the earth."
The editorial elaborates: "Act 13, the hydraulic fracturing law passed in February, already qualified as a major corporate giveaway to the natural-gas industry, giving companies the right to overturn local zoning laws and pretty much drill anywhere. But buried in the law, which goes into effect April 14, is a gag order on doctors. If physicians want to learn the exact chemicals being used in fracking they must sign a nondisclosure agreement that prevents them from sharing what they know with their patients or other doctors. At least that's how many health professionals and environmentalists read it."
The editorial states that Pennsylvania doctors already were "flying blind" when it came to answering their patients' questions about the health effects of hydrofracturing. "In an essay in the Harrisburg Patriot-News in February, Dr. Marilyn Heine, president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society, reported that some of her colleagues were being asked if symptoms like rashes might be tied to fracking chemicals, or whether they should have their well-water tested. She said that medical expertise is being 'handcuffed by a lack of research.' Act 13 adds a muzzle to the handcuffs."
The editorial notes that the bill's sponsors claim the confidentiality agreement is necessary because the chemical mix used to free natural gas from the earth is a trade secret. Six-hundred-and-fifty of the 750 of the chemicals used in fracking are known to cause cancer, according to the Daily News.
"Isn't it far more likely that they know that if people knew about the massive amounts of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene and other toxins to which they and their kids have been exposed, they would ask more questions - and ask them louder?" the editorial asks.
"This law cries out to be challenged in court. And legislators who voted for it need to be held accountable at the ballot box," the editorial concludes.
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