Friday, June 18, 2010

Sandra Steingraber’s Speech in Ithaca, June 12, 2010

My interest in this topic began in a hospital bed in 1979 when heard a doctor tell me that I had bladder cancer. I had just turned 20.

Back at the university library, I found out that bladder cancer is almost always caused by chemicals in the environment. Especially chemical contaminants in air and water.

Like solvents.
Like benzene.
Like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, otherwise known as soot.

Years later, I came back to my Illinois hometown as a Ph.D. biologist. I found out that I was just one data point in a cluster of cancers there. I found chemicals linked to bladder cancer in my hometown drinking water wells and in the landfills. So I wrote about all that in my book Living Downstream.

Living Downstream came out as a movie recently. It was shown here in Cinemapolis, and it was shown at a Washington DC film festival together with—guess which other film? Gasland. So I got to see Josh Fox’s amazing documentary way before the rest of you, and it blew me away. Gasland inspired me to start researching the carcinogens used in the gas drilling of shale by hydrofracking.

Ithaca, nothing I’ve learned in the last 30 years of researching carcinogens scares me more than fracking.
So when I was asked last month to participate in Congressional briefing about the environmental contributions to cancer, I spoke about fracking. I spoke about it again at a meeting with White House staff.

We all need now to be speaking about fracking. Here’s why.

The bedrock under our feet is made of shale. Geologists call it the ancient basement of New York. It’s an old sea floor. It’s like a big chalkboard under the ground and trapped inside this layer are tiny bubbles of methane—natural gas. Those bubbles represent the bodies of ancient sea creatures.

To get these gas bubbles out of the bedrock, you have to shatter it with explosives. You have to pump it full of chemical-laced water under high pressure. You need compressors running 24/7. You need to fill the rural roads of upstate New York with diesel trucks.

Carcinogens are involved at every single stage of hydrofracking........continued......