The actor and UN human rights champion, Amber Heard, is among a group of campaigners, academics and environmentalists who are urging the United Nations today to ban fracking to protect the health of women in the UK.
The former wife of Johnny Depp makes the call in a letter to a meeting in Geneva on the Conventional of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
The letter’s signatories also include the environmental campaigner, Dame Vivienne Westwood, and Wenonah Hauter, of Food and Water Watch, as well as action groups, academics and the National Union of Students.
The meeting will be attended by senior civil servants from the UK government’s equalities office, Ministry of Justice and the Department of Work and Pensions
In summer 2018, CEDAW asked the UK Government to provide information on the measures being taken to mitigate and address the health and environmental impacts of toxic substances from planned fracking activities on women and girls.
The UK Government replied in November 2018, saying there was “a robust regulatory system which provides a comprehensive regime for exploratory activities“. It also said there were “tough regulations in place to ensure on site safety, prevent water contamination, and mitigate seismic activity and air pollution”.
Activists have said the UK government’s measures were not sufficient to protect women.
The signatories to today’s letter argued that women’s rights were compromised because they said:
- There was evidence that fracking was linked to higher rates of cancer and nervous, immune and cardiovascular problems in women
- A study by Concerned Health Professionals of New York found that pregnant women living near active fracking operations in Pennsylvania had a 40% increased risk of giving birth prematurely and 30% had obstetrician-labelled ‘high-risk pregnancies
- Fertility and menstrual problems in women could be caused from exposure to chemicals associated with fracking, including benzene, toluene and xylene (BTX chemicals).
- Miscarriages and still births could be caused by the heavy metals found in fracking waste water.
Amber Heard said on Twitter:
“Only a comprehensive ban can protect women and human rights from the destructive impacts of fracking in the UK.”
Vivienne Westwood said:
“We want to highlight the harm fracking causes pregnant women.”
Referring to the study by Concerned Health Professionals of New York, Dame Vivienne said:
“This is an example of the virulent, poisoning effect of fracking to all life and we therefore want to support Amber Heard and the group asking for CEDAW to demand that it stops.”
Wenonah Hauter, founder and executive director of Food & Water Watch and Food & Water Europe, said.
“We’ve experienced the negative impacts of fracking on rural women in the US. The UK Government still has the opportunity to prevent this and must ban fracking.”
The letter on fracking is among many expressions of concern submitted to the CEDAW meeting from the UK and it may not be considered. If it is, the issue could be included in a set of recommendations due to be released next month.