AMA Calls for Disclosure, Monitoring of Chemicals in Fracking Fluid

June 17, 2015

The American Medical Association (AMA) has issued a clear call for disclosure of chemicals used in oil and gas "fracking" operations — as well as monitoring of fracking operations to assess human exposure. The AMA said the information should go not only to doctors, but also to the public whose health may be at risk.

The AMA, the nation's largest professional association of medical doctors, advocates public policies that doctors believe will protect public health. A loophole passed in 2005 exempts fracking chemicals from normal disclosure requirements under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Fracking, a nickname for hydraulic fracturing, typically involves wells drilled horizontally into shale formations, and high-pressure injection of chemical-water-sand mixtures to release gas and oil.

Well owners near fracking sites have complained that the chemicals leak into air and drinking water and harm their health. A June 4, 2015, report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency concluded that fracking could contaminate drinking water but that there was no evidence the problem was widespread.

The AMA adopted its policy urging disclosure at a meeting June 9.

“Most states do not require drilling companies to publicly disclose what chemicals are injected into the ground during hydraulic fracturing,” said David Barbe, an AMA board member, in a statement. “The new AMA policy supports disclosure requirements to monitor any environmental exposure to tracking chemicals and advise or treat patients based on reliable information.”