New oil and gas developments bring significant risks for the health and wellbeing of communities, according to a new report from The University of Sydney that has been welcomed by Independent ACT Senator David Pocock.
The report “The risks of oil and gas development for human health and wellbeing” presents a comprehensive analysis citing over 300 peer-reviewed papers published over the last decade evaluating the local, regional and global health impacts of oil and gas developments, drawing particularly on the advanced experience of the US.
“In the US, an estimated 17.6 million people live within 2 kms of at least one fracking well, if not more, so we have strong evidence about their impacts on human health,” Senator Pocock said.
“The adverse health consequences associated with living near oil and gas projects include increased rates of pregnancy complications, stillbirths, cardiovascular disease, asthma exacerbations, childhood cancers, premature deaths and mental illness.”
In one extensive modelling study cited in the report, air pollutants from oil and gas developments in the US were estimated to have caused 410,000 asthma exacerbations, 270 additional heart attacks and 7,500 premature deaths in 2016 alone; at an estimated financial cost of US$77 billion. Risks to water security and contamination are also significant.
“It’s hard to see how any Australian government could consider opening new fossil fuel developments close to any community, when the evidence shows so clearly that it could endanger the health and quality of life of current and future generations,” Senator Pocock said.
“Despite the evidence about immediate impacts of these projects and the impact of climate change, the Government is still approving new fossil fuel projects. The Albanese Government is even tipping in $1.5 billion in taxpayer funding for the Middle Arm petrochemical manufacturing facility in Darwin Harbour, just 3 kilometres away from Darwin’s population centre.
“The evidence cited in this report warns us that fracking the Beetaloo and processing gas at Middle Arm could consign the next generation of Territorians to a greater burden of cancers in their childhood years.
“This report highlights the need for a legislated duty of care, so that governments are forced to consider the potential health impacts of their decisions on young people when they’re approving new petrochemical facilities in our country.
“The Albanese Government should put down the gas industry’s talking points and consider the long term health of our country, and the rights of Australians to live safely within their communities.
“Gas giants won’t be picking up the tab for the added burden on our health system, it will be paid for by Australian taxpayers.”