Ethylbenzene changes everything

Sounds like the title of a country western song.

A couple months have passed since I published the results of our little family study. Lots of folks have expressed concern and wonder how we’re doing. It has been difficult for me to find words to describe the past two months. But I can still hum a tune. Maybe I should write a song.

fracking-healthIn our family we have run the usual gamut of emotions and faced a broad spectrum of reactions. Recent earthquakes and landslides in the gas fields are eerily symbolic. Our test results certainly caused a little earthquake in our family and resulted in a landslide of emotions. Shortly after we went public with our test results, I began hearing from people – all over the world actually – but mostly from western Garfield County. People reached out to me by phone, email, and in person. People are sick. People are angry. From chronic infections to asthma to cancers to prenatal defects and stillbirths, we are in the midst of a burgeoning public health crisis. Our family has certainly had our share of health problems but they pale in comparison to what too many others are going through.

The important thing is, we opened up the dialogue. People whose health has been impacted by oil & gas drilling ought to feel free to talk openly about it. There is no shame in suffering. The only shame is on the state of Colorado for not addressing a serious and growing public health crisis.

In 2012, there were a mere 131 documented cases of West Nile Virus in the entire state, yet it is classified as a public health threat. Kinda makes you wonder.

What sort of monsters are they at the CDPHE that they aren’t the least bit curious about why people are sick? Why aren’t they concerned that people’s bodies – especially children’s bodies – are metabolizing BTEXs? Why do they refuse to initiate a long term study on the increases in prenatal defects and stillbirths?

The only possible answer is chilling. The state knows oil & gas drilling causes birth defects and makes people sick. The appalling lack of data and studies on human health impacts – they think – allow them to pretend this health crisis doesn’t exist.

The CDPHE can look the other way all they want but it’s about to blow up in their faces. Because everybody knows. Oil and gas drilling makes people sick. And more and more people are getting sick. The state has failed to protect public health.

We thank everyone for their support and concern. We thank all the brave people who have come forward with their stories. It’s not easy. Yet public pressure is the only way to draw attention to this crisis. If the CDPHE doesn’t want to lead the way in protecting public health from the impacts of oil & gas drilling, I assure you, citizens will take matters into their own hands. When we acknowledge what is happening around us and refuse to pretend nothing is wrong then we ultimately enable change.

Of course there have been some negative reactions, though not as many as I expected. But I do want to address the “correlation does not imply causation” talking point that industry trolls have lobbed my way. “Some say” just because our bodies are metabolizing ethylbenzene, xylenes, and styrene doesn’t necessarily mean it was caused by exposure to oil & gas drilling operations. And I say, tell that to the guy who gets a DUI. If the arresting officer didn’t see the guy drinking he doesn’t know if the alcohol in the guy’s blood was caused by drinking alcohol. He could have stepped in a puddle of beer, barefoot, with an open wound on his big toe. Or the guy who fails a drug test at work. If nobody saw him taking drugs – well — you get the picture. It’s bullshit. If you don’t believe O&G activity is the “causation” for my family’s contamination, call up the CSU Center for Environmental Medicine Analytical Laboratory and ask them.

Plenty of people have advised us to leave, some out of genuine concern for our well-being, and others who seemed to be issuing a veiled threat. There’s just one small problem. I went and blabbed all over the internets about our blood and urine test results and now I’ve gone and royally screwed up our chances of selling our house.

This is a bizarre game people play. If we don’t talk about the impacts of oil & gas drilling then it won’t affect our property values. As if the drill rigs – now with sound walls! – and blighted landscapes are invisible. And the brown cloud is from the ranchers burning ditches…

jared polis headshotIn a guest column last month in The Colorado Springs Gazette, Congressman Polis wrote: “A recent study found that nearby wells reduce property value by 4-15 percent. It is understandable then that homeowners in affected areas are up in arms over the ability of the state to force them to … [live near] … an activity … that could wipe out their life savings or place their home underwater with regard to their mortgage. Who wouldn’t be upset?”

So there. You see? It’s not my fault our home’s value has declined.

Eventually we will leave. We must, for the sake of our family’s health. We haven’t ironed out the details just yet. However fleeing does not appear to be a rational option.

Our roots run deeper than fracking. Our daughter Ema and her children, Hailey and Bodi were born in Colorado. When Tod and I combine our early years in Routt County with our years here in Silt, we have lived more than a third of our lives in Colorado. This is our home.

During the debate with Congressman Polis on May 31, COGA’s Tish Schuller declared that Colorado is an “energy state.” Did you vote for that policy? I sure as hell didn’t. Yet here we are up to our eyeballs in oil & gas development and it’s ruining our health, our property values, and our quality of life. And the state is allowing the industry to get away with it.

And what are we left with?

The CDPHE turns a blind eye and a deaf ear and stone silence to the serious and growing threat to public health from oil & gas drilling.

minions see no evil

So. Okay. We surrender. We cannot coexist with oil & gas drilling. Like thousands of others we’ll leave. But we shall not go quietly.

Governor Hickenlooper insists that property rights (mineral rights) are at stake when municipalities ban fracking. In fact he is so sure he filed suit. Obviously then the official policy in Colorado is that property rights trump everything including — and most especially — public health. In which case, our property rights are equally at stake. If property rights are indeed king, the state must establish a buyout program for property owners whose property values have been negatively impacted by oil & gas drilling. When we look at what our home was worth in 2009 (and it just so happens we have an appraisal), when there were less than 4,000 gas wells in Garfield County, compared to what we could get in today’s market (there are currently over 10,100 gas wells in GarCo) – provided homes were even selling in Silt and they are not – that 15% devaluation is about right. Our home was appraised at $305,000 in 2009. We’d be lucky to get $255,000 today.

So, for the time being anyway, we are living in the present. The future will have to take care of itself.

And the present involves my own health and my family’s health. Evidently it’s a whole lot easier to ingest BTEXs – especially since we don’t remember doing so – than it is to get rid of them. However the human body is incredibly resilient. It’s amazing how crappy I can feel and still function on a daily basis.

My plan is to eventually share some of the methods we’ve used to remove the BTEXs from our bodies. This is still a work-in-progress. Removing toxins from the human body is not an exact science. It is definitely a learning experience. The whole catch-22 is, once we flush the toxins out of our bodies we will likely continue to ingest them. So there’s that …


Public Health Forum — Wednesday, June 25 — Parachute Library – more details to come!

Family says drilling caused health issues

Dr. John Hughes, of Aspen Integrative Medicine in Basalt and Aspen, confirmed … that he is planning to facilitate a study headed by University of Oklahoma researcher Dr. Jay S. Hanas, of the school’s Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, about potential health hazards from living near gas-drilling rigs.

This study is currently on hold.  For more information about the study go to:  Human test subjects wanted

We are in the process of compiling a list of volunteers who are interested in participating in human health studies. If you are interested, or would like more information please contact me:

As with all personal health information, your information remains strictly confidently.


Inside the brown cloud

“Inside the brown cloud” is not a series in the same way the PC spill is a series. It’s a collection of posts related to public health. Yet “public health in the gas patch” sounds too clinical so I titled it: Inside the brown cloud – public health

In the top right margin you will find a quick link to the posts related to public health.

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6 Comments on “Ethylbenzene changes everything”

  1. skhlinman Says:

    You’re a hero. Can we collect data from the local hospitals ? I know privacy is protected, but what about strictly numbers? When the VVH investigation began, no real numbers were provided to the public- what about cancer and CPD and Respiratory disease rates? What are the laws concerning access? I can begin looking if you haven’t already… I am so deeply sorry Peggy.

    From Sonja Linman Please excuse the brevity of this message. It was sent from my iPhone.

  2. Peggy Tibbetts Says:

    I’m not sure Sonja. Medical professionals as a rule have been unwilling to come forward and discuss the health impacts they see. I think the state has to request the data. I’m hoping that these are some of the issues we can discuss at the upcoming health forum.

  3. Jeanne Huyser Says:

    The irony of medical professionals not wanting to discuss the health impacts they observe, in gas drilling areas, is mind boggling.

  4. Peggy Tibbetts Says:

    The oil & gas industry contributes plenty of money to hospitals and clinics. Some companies have been investing in cancer treatment centers around the country. Grand River Hospital should be called Encana Hospital. Why do you think they have such a high turnover of doctors? I know doctors who quit and moved away because they can’t deal with the politics of O&G. And then they can’t talk about the health impacts or they risk their careers. What we need is a coalition of medical professionals who band together and refuse to be intimidated by the state and the industry. Because the state is involved in this cover up as well.

  5. Jeanne Huyser Says:

    You’re absolutely right, Peggy. The O. & G. industry dumps plenty of $$$ in communities in an effort to buy acceptance of the unacceptable. Our hospitals are prime examples, I agree. Coming from a long line of doctors and medical professionals, I find the lack of ethics within the medical community most disheartening. The Hippocratic Oath and “do no harm” seem to be in serious trouble.

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