Colorado’s Top Medical Officer on Fracking and Health: “We Don’t See Anything to be Concerned With”

Colorado’s top medical officer is once again debunking reckless claims from political activists about fracking and public health.

As the Greeley Tribune reports, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) executive director and chief medical officer Dr. Larry Wolk says that when it comes to oil and natural gas development impacting public health, “we don’t see anything to be concerned with.” From the Greeley Tribune:

“I’m not going to tell anybody to go drink a pint of liquid petroleum or stand over an active well site and wave the fumes in to breath them in,” Wolk said. “Nobody would argue that this stuff isn’t toxic, but it’s all about exposure to toxins, and we don’t see anything to be concerned with at this point in time.” (Emphasis added)

Dr. Wolk’s opinion is backed up by state health data cited in the story showing that areas of Colorado where a majority of fracking is taking place are not registering higher levels of negative health conditions, and in some instances are even lower than those reported where little or no fracking occurs. Also from the Greeley Tribune:

“Despite public fears that oil and gas development is causing asthma, birth defects and cancer, statistics from the health department show oil and gas has not affected the general health of Weld County, which produces 90 percent of the state’s oil.” (Emphasis added)


“The statistics show that even though Weld has about 70 percent more active wells than other northern Colorado counties, it does not have more health issues.”

“Wolk said he believes there is not causal relationship between development and chronic diseases.”

The Tribune continues:

“The numbers, which were reported in two-year increments between 2008 and 2012, show that Weld does not have significantly more, and in many cases, it has fewer, instances of asthma, cancer, birth defects, infant mortality and low birth weights than other Front Range counties.” (Emphasis added)

This isn’t the first time Dr. Wolk, a practicing physician once voted Colorado’s Pediatrician of the Year, has fact checked fear mongering from “ban fracking” activists in Colorado. In fact, Lisa McKenzie, a researcher whose work is frequently cited by anti-fracking activists is also quoted in the article. But McKenzie has run into trouble with Dr. Wolk before. When McKenzie released a paper attempting to draw an association between birth defects and natural gas development, Dr. Wolk released a statement to warn the public and media that “a reader of the study could easily be misled to become overly concerned.” In this interview with the Greeley Tribune, Dr. Wolk is again urging the public to check the facts regarding her work:

“People should do their own research before making assumptions,” Wolk said. “I want to make sure people aren’t presuming there’s a health hazard. We wanted to make sure the public wasn’t unnecessarily misled.”

Dr. Wolk joins a number of public health officials who are speaking out against reckless claims of activists who are more interested in pushing a political ideology than scientific debate. Given the willingness of these groups to ignore the facts, he likely won’t be the last.


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