The American Lung Association has acknowledged that fracking causes massive amounts of cancer-causing air pollution, and has urged stronger regulations, but after receiving hefty donations from a fracking company, the ALA switched to falsely promoting gas as “cleaner than other fossil fuels.”
“Sobering Statistics Tell Story About Reality of Women’s Lung Cancer” was the headline of a May 15 blog post written by Harold Wimmer, president and CEO of the American Lung Association (ALA), for the Huffington Post. Wimmer was touting the ALA’s recently announced initiative “to make lung cancer in women a public health priority, drive policy change and increase research funding.” Businesses and organizations around the country are sponsoring events to support this campaign.
These well-intentioned groups, and the public, deserve to know the shameful truth about the ALA. The organization claims to work to reduce lung diseases, yet partners with the single worst contributor to air pollution (and global climate disruption) – the fossil fuel industry, which actually causes respiratory and other illnesses.
The ALA “supports the increased use of natural gas” as a “transitional fuel.” Yet the officers and board of the ALA know full well that “natural” shale gas* is now primarily obtained by the dangerous process of fracking.
To fracture shale rock and extract the gas (methane) within, fracking companies mix millions of gallons of fresh water with numerous chemicals – including carcinogens, neurotoxins and endocrine disruptors – and blast the mixture at high pressure into wells they’ve bored into the rock. Silica, the cause of the lung disease silicosis, is included in the toxic stew, to prop open cracks so the gas escapes.
Scientific studies have shown that the cradle-to-grave production of fracked gas contributes as much pollution as – and possibly even more than – oil and coal exploitation. Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than even carbon dioxide, the worst contributer to climate disruption. Plus, the fracking process releases naturally occurring radioactive materials that include radium-226 as well as radon-222, which is second only to tobacco smoke as a cause of lung cancer.
The negative health impacts of fracking are firmly established in the medical literature. Yet the industry, and its partner politicians and corrupt organizations, insist it is “safe.”
This Is a “Health” Organization?
The ALA has acknowledged that fracking causes massive amounts of cancer-causing air pollution, and urged stronger regulations. But after receiving hefty donations from fracking company Chesapeake Energy to fund its “Fighting for Air” ad campaign, ALA switched to actively promoting gas as “cleaner than other fossil fuels.”
Shockingly, ALA’s Colorado board chair, Doug Hock, is an executive with Canadian fracking corporation Encana, which is regularly cited (and sued) for environmental violations. And the ALA’s pro-gas policy change will increase women’s likelihood of developing lung cancer!
“When women learn the truth about lung cancer – especially the shocking mortality facts,” wrote Wimmer, “they are more likely to take action. . . . [E]veryone has a role to play [in] raising awareness.”
We agree. So we called Wimmer and other national ALA officers about their hypocrisy in supporting fracking while knowing it causes catastrophic health problems. We showed how this contradicts ALA’s mission “to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease.” By selling itself to Big Oil/Big Gas, the ALA makes a mockery of its core reason for existing.
But, just as tobacco executives did for decades to physicians and others sounding the alarm about smoking, Wimmer and the board dismissed our well-grounded criticism.
The corporate ties that bind are obviously very tight.
Local chapter ALA leaders, staff and volunteers can be justly proud of their decades of hard work that have resulted in sharp curtailment of marketing, advertising and accessibility of killer tobacco, the cleanup of polluting industries, and the condemnation of breath-stealing oil and coal exploitation. These campaigns have saved tens of thousands of lives.
Yet the current hypocrisy of top ALA leadership taints the dedication of chapter ALA staff and volunteers.
A respected health organization should not play politics or be beholden to fossil-fuel pushers. The only logical remedy for ALA is to come clean – by denouncing fracking as the intolerable lung-destroying corporate activity it is.
* The only natural state for this methane gas embedded in shale rock is deep below us, where it has been for millennia.