Saying something causes breast cancer is like yelling fire in a theater. It should be only said when true.
Yet, Josh Fox's "The Sky Is Pink" video, an advocacy piece aimed at convincing Governor Cuomo to ban hydraulic fracturing in New York, hurls the explosive charge that shale drilling in Texas is linked to breast cancer. Remember also that Rolling Stone Magazine quickly embraced and promoted the Sky Is Pink Video. johnhanger.blogspot.com/2012/06/josh-fox-rolling-stone-magazine-targets.html.
Unlike Rolling Stone Magazine, the Associated Press looks into Fox's claim that breast cancer rates have spiked in the Barnett Shale in Texas, where intensive shale gas drilling has been done for a decade.
Here is what Ken Bergos of the AP writes about the claim:
1. "But researchers haven't seen a spike in breast cancer rates in the area, said Simon Craddock Lee, a professor of medical anthropology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas."
2. "David Risser, an epidemiologist with the Texas Cancer Registry, said in an email that researchers checked state health data and found no evidence of an increase in the counties where the spike supposedly occurred."
3. "And Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a major cancer advocacy group based in Dallas, said it sees no evidence of a spike, either."
The AP also debunks another wild, false claim spread by The Sky Is Pink Video and Rolling Stone Magazine that gas drilling caused radionuclide contamination of Pennsylvania's streams and drinking water. It notes that comprehensive testing by the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, other drinking water suppliers, and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection found radionuclides in streams and drinking water are at background levels and the water is safe to drink.
Reckless charges like fracking causes breast cancer create two problems. First, they play with good people's emotions and fears, but may be effective for a time in misleading people.
But eventually the false charges are revealed to be reckless. Truth may catch untruth. And then a different risk emerges.
Exaggeration, hyperbole, false charges can create an overreaction, an environment where real impacts and problems are not taken as seriously as they should be. It is the "crying wolf" syndrome.
And gas drilling is industrial activity that has impacts and risks that can and should be reduced. In many cases, natural gas impacts are already low, at least when compared to the water and air impacts caused by other forms of energy production and consumption.
Yet, on issues like methane leakage and gas migration, more work is on-going and better results can be ahead. Wild, false charges that win headlines and eyeballs ultimately backfire and hinder the on-going necessary work of improving regulations and operations.