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"Natural" gas may be harmful to your health
It is "the most important source of indoor air pollution responsible for generating illness [in 47,000 patients]," surpassing even pesticides or passive tobacco smoke. "For the chemically susceptible individual, this may be the worst form of fuel."
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"Natural gas [methane plus impurities and odourant] is a pollutant chemical that can worsen both classical allergy and chemical sensitivity." Its combustion gases, unburned fuel and chemical additives can be major sources of indoor air pollution.
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Click here for information on the Allergy and Environmental Health Association - Nova Scotia (AEHA-NS).

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AEHA-NS. and its coalition partners are investivaging the harmful effects of piper natural gas on environmentally induced illness/chemical sensitivity, asthma and allergies as part of the Environmental Assessment of the Sable Island Gas Project proposal.

This is an industrial proposal to pipe Natural Gas ( from Sable Island off the coast of Nova Scotia onto the mainland.

The effects of the transmission and use of piped natural gas upon persons with environmentally induced illness/chemical sensitivity (2), asthma or allergies can be significant and extremely harmful.
Similarly important is the potential impact in the development of new cases of illness and sensitivity, of asthma and other respiratory health problems and of all general illness involving compromised immune systems. Such a development could cause significant adverse economic impact upon the costs of health care, as well as on overall productivity at work and in school. This would burden society overall, not just those who suffer from these conditions.

The reputation of piped natural gas as an environment-healthy fuel ignores these very serious health effects. Industry proponants must be rigorously challenged on their misrepresentation of natural gas as a truly environment-friendly fuel (Gas Combustion Details).

Industry proponents fail to adequately value the dramatic worsening of indoor air quality due to sensitizing properties and other polluting effects of natural gas use for heating, cooking and operating appliances and equipment. Electrical energy generation, preferably remote from human activity, and provided it replaces oil or coal combustion, is the only gas activity that can be demonstrated to give a net benefit to total air quality and human health. Since North Americans spend the vast majority of their time indoors, indoor air quality is far more important than even outdoor air quality in terms of heman health.

Our position is that unless proponants can conclusively demonstrate that building and operating the proposed natural gas pipeline and related projects will not cause harm to humans and the natural environment, there can be no justification for the release of this proposed project. Absence of such proof is not proof of absence of harmful effect. The onus of proof must be on the proponents who stand to gain financially.

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The founder and director of the Environmental Health Center - Dallas, Texas, Dr.William J. Rea, M.D. states that, "Of 47,000 patients, the most important sources of indoor air pollution responsible for generating illness were the gas cook stoves, hot water heaters, and furnaces." (Chemical Sensitivity: Sources of Total Body Load, Vol. 2, 1994, CRC Press, Inc., p. 706).

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Dr. Gerald Ross, M.D., President of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, writes that, "Traditionally, natural gas is a pollutant chemical that can worsen both classical allergy and chemical sensitivity." He further states, " [patients with complex allergies and sensitivities] will have only limited success with their treatment programs, if they are living in a home that has natural gas or if they are in an area where there is natural gas transportation or leakage." (3 Jan., 1997).
(see details in our Medical-Environmental Report)

It is important to note the strength of the statement that even living "... in an area where there is natural gas transportation or leakage" can cause serious harm. One cannot eliminate the danger by turning off the gas to one's own house; even living in a community with piped natural gas can cause serious damage. Nova Scotia and New Brunswick already have significant problems with indoor air pollution and have an alarming number of cases of environmentally induced illness/chemical sensitivity and asthma. If piped natural gas is to be allowed here, we must be certain it will not cause harm to these persons to worsen this already bad situation.

In his frequent lectures in Nova Scotia, Dr. Ross has demonstrated the role of stress factors such as pollutant chemicals like natural gas in causing or worsening a wide variety of illnesses associated with compromised immune systems.

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It is crucial to investigate the effect of natural gas exposure in triggering acute environmental illness, asthma and allergies in those presently at risk and, as yet, asymptomatic. Immune systems already impaired by chemical exposures may be pushed over the brink by the added insult of gas exposure, thus adding numerous cases of environmental illness, asthma and allergies to Nova Scotia's and New Brunswick's already overburdened health care systems. Predictably, human suffering would be compounded by economic losses and expenses, including loss of productivity. Cognitive impairment, in which those affected cannot think clearly, is one common-and widespread effect. Schools, institutions, offices and general workplaces can readily suffer from this effect and others.

This public health issue deserves serious consideration and study, which we propose to undertake. It is not possible to properly assess the environmental impact of this project fully, nor can one responsibly release this proposed project, without fully and completely investigating this issue. AEHA-NS and our partners are uniquely suited and positioned to carry out this job due to the expertise of our members and of our connections within the field of environmental medicine. We invite all to be creative in finding ways to assist our effort.

Our concerns are shared in the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation's publication The Clean Air Guide: How to Identify and Correct Indoor Air Problems in Your Home (NHA 6695, 1993) which lists under "Chemical Contaminats" the "combustion gases generated by the burning of fossil fuels in gas furnaces, fireplaces, hot water heaters, woodstoves and oil furnaces" (p.1). Four of their first six chemical contaminants listed concern gas (pp. 12 - 15). In every case the best or the only solution given is to stop using gas and convert to electric. "Combustion gases and unburned fuel (including the additives) from fossil fuel appliances can be a major source of contaminants in the home. Sufficient evidence has accumulated on the negative impact on health of using open flame gas stoves" (p. 18).

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The Lancet, the British medical journal, recently published research findings further supporting this finding, and linking use of natural gas appliances to asthma and other respiratory health problems (The Lancet, Vol. 347, February 17, 1996, pp. 412, 426-431.) Increased risk was documented for asthma attacks, waking with shortness of breath, reduced lung function and increased airway obstruction.

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T. Randolph, M.D., and R. Moss, Ph.D., in their book An Alternative Approach to Allergies (NY: Bantam, 1980), devote many pages to the problems with natural gas. ".... for the chemically susceptible individual this (natural) gas may be the worst form of fuel" (p. 86). "The gas stove must be completely removed from the premises" (p. 87). "If a chemically susceptible person has a gas-fired heating system, he has to consider changing it, or changing houses, regardless of the immediate cost. The reason is that it is difficult for a susceptible person to remain in anything resembling good health if he is subjected to the fumes of such a system." (p. 242).

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AEHA-NS and our coalition partners will table evidence in support of our position for consideration in this environmental assessment. The problem is significant and astonishingly poorly known.

AEHA-NS and our coalition partners represent persons with the greatest likelihood of harm through adverse environmental health effects. We are a highly motivated group with specific expertise, access to information and resources in this field not commonly available. Nova Scotia is a pioneer in environmental medicine, partly because of our unfortunate history of far greater than average occurrence of this condition. Nova Scotia hosts the first government-funded Environmental Health Clinic in North America. We understand this field and can help direct this investigation to those areas most likely to prove relevant and useful.

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It is reasonable to expect the Nova Scotia and New Brunswick experience to be much more severe than previously reported elsewhere, in part because we already have such substantially higher rates than are generally found elsewhere of environmentally induced illness/chemical sensitivity, asthma and allergies. Thus, we would tend to be much more susceptable to any new stresses to our immune systems. Additionally, now the exobiological chemicals in our environments have increased in both variety and quantity, and more persons are reacting to these than was previously the case (or at least than was previously reported). This all tends to make less relevant earlier studies from elsewhere that attempt to dismiss the adverse health effects of gas and its by-products (Gas Combustion Details).

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The token Intervenor funding received by AEHA-NS is completely inadequate to the task at hand. It is especially inadequate to determine which uses of natural gas are unlikely to contribute to environmentally induced illness and chemical sensitivity, asthma or allergies. Specifically, in order for us to be confident that any uses of natural gas are of proven benefit in our case, we need the help and cooperation of everyone who holds a stake in undertaking this research project.

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In the spirit of the Canadian National Round Table on Environment and Economy's (NRTEE) Building Consensus for a Sustainable Future: Guiding Principles (1993), we propose the NRTEE system be used as a superior method to the current biased environmental assessment process. In the NRTEE process all stakeholders cooperate to "advance issues related to environmental, social and economic sustainability" and together, as equals, find sustainable, affordable , and appropriate solutions to complex challenges. Only thus can we and other stakeholders fully share our creativity, knowledge and dedication in researching all perspectives of this situation and building consensus for a sustainable future.

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The published advice of the leading medical practitioners treating environmental illness is that combustion sources, particularly natural gas, are a significant contributor to illness when piped where people live and work. We need to document the mechanisms of this, when it does and does not occur, why some are affected and not others, the full extent of the harmful effects and how to protect against those effects. We need to determine the risk/benefit ratio of the various aspects of this project and their logical outcomes. A cleaner, less toxic environment would be of great benefit to all of us.

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Please help in any way you can. We need assistance from professionals in the health, environmental, legal, economic and other fields. We need related documents, reports and other evidence. We need leads to those who might be of help. We need case histories and anecdotes of exposures and effects. We could definitely use money, office equipment and supplies. In whatever way you can, please assist us in protecting our common future and the health and wellbeing of ourselves and our children!

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This site was last updated on Sunday, March 08, 1998