The Australian gas fields; personal insights into the health impacts and limitations of regulation

From Dr Geralyn McCarron Batchelor of Medicine, Batchelor of Surgery, Batchelor of the Art of Obstetrics, Fellow of the Australian College of General Practitioners, Member of the National Toxics Networks, Member of Doctors for the Environment Australia
– January 26th 2013 –
“I am a GP who lives and works in suburban Brisbane. I come from Tempo in County Fermanagh. When, at the end of 2011, my family back in Ireland, drew my attention to the prospect of fracking in County Leitrim (Republic of Ireland) and County Fermanagh (Northern Ireland), I gleaned most of my information from the shale gas industry in the USA and Canada. What I learned from the North American experience really worried me. However, a few months later I realised there was just as big a problem in Australia. Through a community initiative called “Bridging the Divide”, I took a bus trip out to a rural residential community five hours drive from Brisbane. What I found shocked me and I have returned several times to try to help them. The place, the Wieambilla Estate, is usually referred to as “Tara” but it is in fact situated thirty five kilometres away from Tara, which is the nearest small town.
Wieambilla consists of blocks of land, between twenty to eighty acres in size, in the remote Australian bush. There are very few services and the roads are dirt roads. Many families moved there from the cities to find a safe and idyllic spot to raise their children and to them Wieambilla seemed like Utopia. These families, who built their homes in clearings, are now completely surrounded by gas fields. The children are sick. The parents are sick. There is a recurring narrative of constant headaches, nose bleeds, sore red eyes, nausea, fatigue, chest pains, cough, sinus problems, rashes, tingling and numbness of limbs, collapse, fits, twitchy babies, children becoming clumsy and unsteady on their feet …”
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