National Toxics Network (NTN) is calling on State governments to carry out a full assessment of the impacts of coal seam gas (CSG) on animals living in close proximity to gas wells following today’s release of a scientific study demonstrating the gas industry’s serious impacts on livestock.

The study found animals, including livestock and domestic animals, are sensitive to the contaminants released into the environment by drilling and to the cumulative impacts of exposure over time.

“Animals are exposed to the same environmental impacts as we are. But as this study has shown, they tend to suffer more direct exposure and since they have shorter lives and reproductive cycles, it is easier to see the adverse health effects of the gas industry, “ said Dr Mariann Lloyd-Smith, NTN Senior Advisor.

“The study results are alarming. In one case where cows had access to streams running through gas fields, 17 cows and 4 calves died over a three-month period. All the cattle were healthy before this episode and while no cause of death could be clearly determined, 16 of the 17 adult cows were found to have dead fetuses. Of the 39 cows that survived, 16 failed to breed and several cows produced stillborn calves. The health of cattle on the farmer’s other pastures was unaffected”.

“We know so little about the long term impacts on the health of wildlife and farm animals of this industry, yet we do know the Australian CSG industry uses and produces highly toxic substances. Many CSG chemicals used in Australia have never been assessed for their health impacts and we know from independent sampling, the industry’s activities result in the release to water of toxic compounds like benzene and heavy metals,” said Lloyd-Smith

“The study found the major routes of exposure in the cases documented were through water contamination but notes that other routes of exposure are of serious concern. Soil contamination can be significant when companies abandon their drill pits and the actual incidence of health effects from air contamination may be being underestimated due to a lack of air sampling”.

“A significant finding was that exposure to contaminated air may contribute significantly to the health problems of both people and animals living near gas drilling operations” said Lloyd-Smith.

“Little air monitoring is conducted in Australia yet over two hundred air pollutants can be released from gas flaring including carcinogens such as benzopyrene, arsenic and chromium.”

“Farm residents in Chinchilla QLD have already reported noxious air emissions from a neighboring gas production, complaining of burning eyes and respiratory problems.”

NTN is calling on State and Federal governments to assess and implement the study’s recommendations including the independent monitoring of air, soil and water and full disclosure and assessment of all chemicals used by the industry.

“The CSG industry should not proceed until complete assessments have been undertaken and all risks identified,” concluded Lloyd-Smith.

Contact : Dr Mariann Lloyd-Smith PhD (Law)
Senior Advisor, National Toxics Network Inc.
0413 621557 / 02 66815340