SMH - 18.7.2011 - Petrina Berry
Coal seam gas (CSG) mining can cause cancer and harm unborn babies, according to a group of medical experts giving evidence to a Senate committee.
The six experts, who include a Queensland government epidemiologist, say the state’s ban on the use of cancer-causing chemicals collectively known as BTEX in CSG mining doesn’t protect the community from health risks.
In a submission to a Senate inquiry into CSG impacts, which is sitting in Queensland this week, the microbiology and disease experts say BTEX exists in the coal seams.
“The fracking process itself can release BTEX from natural gas reservoirs, allowing them to escape into aquifers or the surrounding air,” the submission says.
“BTEX chemicals have been found after at least two fracking operations in Queensland.”
It said long-term exposure to the chemicals can cause leukaemia, affect the reproductive system and cause harm to unborn children.
“BTEX chemicals (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene) are frequently found together in petroleum compounds,” the submission says.
“They are in a class of chemicals known as volatile organic compounds which easily vaporise so people can be exposed through drinking water, bathing or breathing in vapour.
“Long-term exposure to benzene for instance, even in very small amounts, can affect the bone marrow, causing anaemia, and increasing the risk of leukaemia, and can affect unborn children.”
They say toluene and ethylbenzene can damage the nervous system, liver and kidneys and ethylbenzene is a possible human carcinogen.
The professors behind the submission include Queensland Health communicable diseases epidemiologist Dr John Sheridan, University of Melbourne microbiology and immunology professor Peter Doherty and Australian National University professor of population health Anthony McMichael.
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And read the Doctors’ full submission here