Helmig’s work has saved lives
Guest opinion: Cory Carroll: Helmig’s work has saved lives
By Cory Carroll
I read with interest Katie Langford’s June 19 story regarding Dr. Detlev Helmig. I was drawn to this since I have not only used Dr. Helmig’s research in my work, but also presented with him to audiences along the Front Range.I do not want to discuss guilt or innocence. I want to point out the draconian actions by the University of Colorado Boulder on a professor with a proven track record of accurate, unbiased, and critically relevant research.
If Dr. Helmig is guilty of monetary improprieties, as implied by the university, I will guarantee it was a mistake. My assertion is that Dr. Helmig’s work revealed the health hazards from fracking, and those wells are owned by an extremely powerful group (the oil and gas industry), and that group wanted him silenced.
As a family physician and chair of Physicians for Social Responsibility Colorado, I want to know as much as possible about seen and unseen hazards that harm my patients, and the citizens of Colorado. The pollutants that Dr. Helmig measures harm people. Prior to his work, there were incomplete assessments on these toxins, but his continuous monitors showed shocking findings.
As a consummate scientist, Dr. Helmig looked at the data and presented the results without bias or “political correctness,” which created enemies. Some of the pollutants he measured are from the usual sources in cities, exhaust from autos and buildings. However, some of the toxins are unique to the oil and gas activity, mainly fracking, that has proliferated along the Front Range, with a large concentration in Weld County.
What Dr. Helmig showed is that air toxins, from these sites, is transported to the population centers via prevailing winds and is exposing millions of unsuspecting people.
Prior to his work, the reports from the oil and gas companies and the less accurate measurement done by the state indicated there were no dangerous levels. Dr. Helmig’s research painted a different picture. A recent paper from February of this year entitled, “Air quality impacts from oil and natural gas development in Colorado,” and prior publications were a big problem for oil and gas corporations. With the changing Legislature in Colorado and focus to change the regulations over the oil and gas industry, bad publicity was the last thing the industry wanted.
But they had a problem. Dr. Helmig is a respected researcher who has published more than 290 papers and his work has been cited by more than 8,000 other researchers. His work is full of integrity and value.
I do not know of the connections the oil and gas corporations have with CU Boulder, but the decision of the college to terminate a well-respected professor who has ongoing research with outside funding for at least a year is extremely strange, to say the least. When you add that the firing came over a phone call, out of the blue, without any details or opportunity for an appeal, and in one hour all the locks were changed at his lab, his website taken down, phones and emails disabled, it only makes sense that the oil and gas industry has influence at CU Boulder.
The years of work Dr. Helmig provided the university, the value he has provided the local communities, his academic excellence, all destroyed in a day.
Interruption of the valuable research that Dr. Helmig has been doing will cost lives. I have several colleagues in surrounding states who have used Dr. Helmig’s work to fight polluters and create healthier communities. We need more professors like Dr. Helmig who are willing to publish the truth and not back down to powerful interests. If we allow the silencing of ethical scientists by unethical institutions, we are doomed as an advanced society.
Dr. Cory Carroll is a board-certified family physician actively practicing in Fort Collins since 1992 and current chairperson for Physicians for Social Responsibility Colorado.