By Jerome A. Paulson, MD, FAAP – Professor of Pediatrics & Public Health, George Washington University; Medical Director, National & Global Affairs, Child Health Advocacy Institute; and Director, Mid-Atlantic Center for Children’s Health & the Environment, Children’s National Medical Center
I feel very strongly that the language of Pennsylvania’s HB 1950 (found below this commentary) is detrimental to the delivery of personal health care services and contradictory to the ethical principles of medicine and public health.
This legislation blocks health care professionals and public health professionals from collecting information in a timely fashion to treat workers or others who may have been exposed to hazardous chemicals and from gathering information about public health hazards. There is no medical or public health rational for imposing these cumbersome and time consuming restrictions; and, conversely, there is every medical and public health reason for making this information available to medical personnel and the general public.
This legislation will also likely block any attempt at gathering information for research purposes, although, I’m certainly not a lawyer and would defer to the expertise of someone with a background in public health law.
Irrespective of one’s personal or organizational perspective on unconventional natural gas extraction, access to this information will protect individuals who have been exposed, health care workers called upon to treat these individuals, and the general public. I hope that the Pennsylvania Medical Society, the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the state family medicine and public health associations, with appropriate support from their national bodies, take notice of this legislation and follow up appropriately.
(This commentary was written prior to the passing of HB 1950 and has been slightly revised to reflect the current status of the bill. Learn about additional concerns related to this bill in a previous FracTracker post.)
Dr. Marilyn J. Heine, president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society, recently wrote an op-ed regarding this issue, as well.
Snippet of HB 1950:
18 (10) A vendor, service company or operator shall
19 identify the specific identity and amount of any chemicals
20 claimed to be a trade secret or confidential proprietary
21 information to any health professional who requests the
22 information in writing if the health professional executes a
23 confidentiality agreement and provides a written statement of
24 need for the information indicating all of the following:
25 (i) The information is needed for the purpose of
26 diagnosis or treatment of an individual.
27 (ii) The individual being diagnosed or treated may
28 have been exposed to a hazardous chemical.
29 (iii) Knowledge of information will assist in the
30 diagnosis or treatment of an individual.
1 (11) If a health professional determines that a medical
2 emergency exists and the specific identity and amount of any
3 chemicals claimed to be a trade secret or confidential
4 proprietary information are necessary for emergency
5 treatment, the vendor, service provider or operator shall
6 immediately disclose the information to the health
7 professional upon a verbal acknowledgment by the health
8 professional that the information may not be used for
9 purposes other than the health needs asserted and that the
10 health professional shall maintain the information as
11 confidential. The vendor, service provider or operator may
12 request, and the health professional shall provide upon
13 request, a written statement of need and a confidentiality
14 agreement from the health professional as soon as
15 circumstances permit, in conformance with regulations
16 promulgated under this chapter.
17 (c) Disclosures not required.–Notwithstanding any other
18 provision of this chapter, a vendor, service provider or
19 operator shall not be required to do any of the following:
20 (1) Disclose chemicals that are not disclosed to it by
21 the manufacturer, vendor or service provider.
22 (2) Disclose chemicals that were not intentionally added
23 to the stimulation fluid.
24 (3) Disclose chemicals that occur incidentally or are
25 otherwise unintentionally present in trace amounts, may be
26 the incidental result of a chemical reaction or chemical
27 process or may be constituents of naturally occurring
28 materials that become part of a stimulation fluid.
29 (d) Trade secrets and confidential proprietary
1 (1) Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter,
2 a vendor, service company or operator shall not be required
3 to disclose trade secrets or confidential proprietary
4 information to the chemical disclosure registry.
5 (2) The following shall apply:
6 (i) If the specific identity of a chemical, the
7 concentration of a chemical or both the specific identity
8 and concentration of a chemical are claimed to be a trade
9 secret or confidential proprietary information, the
10 vendor, service provider or operator may withhold the
11 specific identity, the concentration, or both the
12 specific identity and concentration, of the chemical from
13 the information provided to the chemical disclosure
15 (ii) Nothing under this paragraph shall prohibit any
16 of the following from obtaining from a vendor, service
17 provider or operator information that may be needed to
18 respond to a spill or release:
19 (A) The department.
20 (B) A public health official.
21 (C) An emergency manager.
22 (D) A responder to a spill, release or a
23 complaint from a person who may have been directly
24 and adversely affected or aggrieved by the spill or
26 (iii) Upon receipt of a written statement of need
27 for the information under subparagraph (ii), the
28 information shall be disclosed by the vendor, service
29 provider or operator to the requesting official or entity
30 authorized under subparagraph (ii) and shall not be a
1 public record.
2 (e) Disclosure prevented.–The department shall prevent
3 disclosure of trade secrets or confidential proprietary
4 information under this section pursuant to the requirements of
5 the Right-to-Know Law or other applicable State law.
Author Contact Information:
Jerome A. Paulson, MD, FAAP
- Professor of Pediatrics & Public Health, George Washington University
- Medical Director, National & Global Affairs, Child Health Advocacy Institute
- Director, Mid-Atlantic Center for Children’s Health & the Environment, Children’s National Medical Center