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« Limited Integrity - Josh 359 | Main | Another one to bite the dust »

FoE to get its comeuppance?

Things may be about to get a bit more tricky for the doughty campaigners at Friends of the Earth. According to the Times' Ben Webster, the Charities Commissioners have taken a dim view of an FoE leaflet that claimed that silica - that's sand to you or me - used in fracking fluid was a known carcinogen.

They were only able to get away with this by claiming that the claims were made by their wholly owned subsidiary FoE Limited, which is not bound by laws about fundraising by deception. 

It's anyone's guess what the Commission is going to do about it. They could crack down on campaigning by charities or they could make the subsidiaries abide by the same rules as their parent charities. Everyone is going to watch with interest, including GWPF, who now have their own campaigning arm, albeit one that operates by much better ethical standards than FoE.


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Reader Comments (97)

No, Google tells me this story never happened
I typed in "Friends of the Earth" into Google News showed me about 1 story an hour comes in about FoE, but the "Charities Commissioners" was not one of them.
- I then put in "Friends of the Earth" "Charities Commissioners" ..and it shows zero stories
..I'm sure if it were true, BBC Harra would be writing a big story

Jan 29, 2016 at 10:14 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Well then, Stewgreen, the FT is the one at fault for spreading untrue stories!

Jan 29, 2016 at 10:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

Stewgreen, I get plenty of hits:

Try: "Charities Commissioners friends of the earth silica" (without quotes)

Jan 29, 2016 at 10:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterNiels

Friends of the Earth can't compete in the compassion / donations stakes with Syrian orphans

Trump boycotted and held his own Republican debate and is flying into Aberdeen in July to oppose the Windmills off his Golf Course . The Donald will bring his own independent stats on Efficentcy and Carbon Reduction on Wind Energy and rip them down.

I repeat despite Matt Fry what're ever the result the Donald has won.

Jan 29, 2016 at 10:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamspid

BH is turning into Myth Central.

As we also mentioned in our response to Cuadrilla’s claims that they wouldn’t be allowed to use toxic chemicals, they used 440 tonnes of sand, a significant proportion of which is silica, to frack at Preese Hall.[10] The media had a field day misrepresenting our response with one sentence taken out of context. They also ignored serious evidence that silica used in fracking operations in the US has been shown to pose a silicosis and lung cancer risk  - leading the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue a hazard alert.[11] This is because, as the US authorities acknowledge, processes can cause substantial amounts of silica dust to be generated, which can then be breathed in.
It is disappointing that the Times story (£) conflates lying on sand on a beach – clearly not dangerous - and fracking workers exposed to conditions where they breathe in levels above occupational silica exposure standards.  This makes as much sense as saying you cannot drown in water because we drink it. The risk to the health and safety of workers should be properly investigated, not made a mockery of.

Jan 29, 2016 at 10:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhil Clarke

Oh must be a local thing to me, if you guys can see todays FoE news story thru Google searches. I can still only see the old Breibart story ..Even when I try tricks like switching to ..same with Bing ..nothing showing.
Strange that story has still not propagated thru Google.
Nothing when I go to the FT site and search it
Finally comes up if I try "the times" "friends of the earth"
I'm in Indonesia, the settings are on English ..the power just went off for half an hour, so I training for visiting the UK.

Jan 29, 2016 at 11:01 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Phil Clarke silica is in the rock they're drilling through too. It's a hazard for lots of jobs, including hammer drilling roads. We still do those things with precautions.

Jan 29, 2016 at 11:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Funny, I don't see any complaints by FOE about sand blasting, a known source of silicosis sufferers.

Jan 29, 2016 at 11:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Greenpeace use the same racket, separating their charitable and lobbying arms. Needs to be cracked down on. That they should lie is no surprise, our local anti-fracking group here in Somerset, Frack Free Somerset or one of their branches, got done by the ASA last year, as a result of putting out a pamphlet with 25 items which were either outright lies or very misleading.

Jan 29, 2016 at 11:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton

OK "The group distributed thousands of leaflets claiming fracking could lead to cancer "
Who distributed the leaflets ?
FoE charity volunteers OR FoE biz PAID workers ?

#2. Those or similar claims are still made here on a website
which ends with this "Copyright © Friends of the Earth Trust/Limited"

so is this the biz or charity ?
The address seems to be that of the Biz
But every reasonable member of the public would presume it's the CHARITY page
(Do the charity and biz have seperate websites ? It doesn't look so)

Fracking company complains about anti-fracking leaflet
Donna Hume* 27 October 2015

blah blah blah for 50 lines ..then
"They also ignored serious evidence that silica used in fracking operations in the US has been shown to pose a silicosis and lung cancer risk - leading the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue a hazard alert.[11] This is because, as the US authorities acknowledge, processes can cause substantial amounts of silica dust to be generated, which can then be breathed in."

* Twitter acount moniker @DonnaHume
Climate and Energy Campaigner at Friends of the Earth, all views my own. Edinburgh bred, London based. #Proud."
Biz or Charity ? not mentioned
- LinkedIn "Campaigner, Political and Legal Unit at Friends of the Earth
London, Greater London, United Kingdom Nonprofit Organization Management" That looks like the charity ?

Now councils will have to put up signs near the beaches "CANCER RISK IF WIND BLOWING"
Whereas fracking workers will probably have dust masks available anyway.

Anyone would think : 'Green Activists deceive, it's what they do.'

Jan 29, 2016 at 11:23 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

No, Google tells me this story never happened

Try 'fracking toxic chemicals cancer'

The story is in the Times not the FT and is paywalled; however it seems to be about a move to prevent Charities avoiding legal responsibilities by spinning off similarly-named corporate campaigning organisations exempt from Charity Commission regulation. It also seems to be more about an FOE claim that 'toxic chemicals' used in the process may end up in groundwater, not some nonsense about sand/silica.

EG, as mentioned above The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) is an educational charity. While the
Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF) is not and so exempt from guidelines about political bias, accuracy etc.

As the GWPF says on its website 'This arrangement reflects those used by other organisations with dual structures, such as Amnesty International UK and Greenpeace UK.'


Jan 29, 2016 at 11:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhil Clarke

I guess they meant the silica risk already covered by HSE guidelines here:

So all construction workers are at risk. If they presented this as a risk specific to fracking then it is obviously blatant deception regardless of the 'disappointment' of FoE and their disinformation drones.

Jan 29, 2016 at 11:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

JamesG You could always try RTFR;

Jan 29, 2016 at 11:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhil Clarke

To get the foe source you have to go into the PDF which takes you to this page (same as Phil gives above) which identifies a risk "workers may be exposed to dust with high levels"
of what they call : respirable crystalline silica ( and later abbreviate to silica. UK say RCS)

That authority doesn't quote a risk factor after you take correct safety measures
There is a shorter info sheet

There is a UK HSE sheet cos workers who do masses of sanding etc. are at risk of sand dust

I think it's one thing to say that workers who are exposed carelessly to huge amounts of dust have some risk
..and quite another to imply that silica is some hugely dangerous chemical to the public if a bit drifts off site, it's not like it's going to pollute a river or anything like that.

Jan 29, 2016 at 11:53 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Phil Clarke: By the tone of your comment about risk one would think that, in your world, nothing would ever get done. I assume you wear a seat-belt when you drive: is that to obey the law or to reduce your risk of injury in the event you crash? I also assume you accept the risk of severe burns when you make a cup of tea using boiling water, but I also assume you take adequate precautions to prevent that happening.

I assume that drilling engineers involved in using silica in a shale gas well know the rules on risk and what precautions to take (and I bet the EA has rules to cover that - similar to you wearing a seat-belt). However, if it was down to you, we'd never let them bother with drilling in the first place.

Jan 29, 2016 at 11:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield

Phil Clarke, well done on highlighting the dubious tactics and scare stories used by Big Green Blob. Professional climatrollogy. Perhaps more publicity is required for activists sabotaging water supplies by connecting them to gas cylinders and igniting them. What won't the Green Blob do to destroy?

Meanwhile deaths from inhaling smoke from dung fires continues as the Green Blob oppose reliable gas and electrical supplies.

Jan 29, 2016 at 11:59 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

@Phil Googling " 'fracking toxic chemicals cancer' just takes you direct to every green loony website

It's not that different from "'EVERYTHING causes cancer', bananas are radioactive etc.

In life we put risks in context so surely FoE is doing proportionate work to reduce the Billions of life days lost every year due to people cooking over open fires indoors ..particularly wood.
and will FoE reassure us about the particulate problems from Drax wood burning ?

Jan 29, 2016 at 11:59 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Yet more bollocks, buggery, & bullshit, from FoE! Silica is a perfectly natural compound found in every day life! I am surprised the greenalists don't demand that the stomach acids in our bodies are removed at birth, coz it's like....acid, init, nah wot ah meen?

Jan 29, 2016 at 12:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

Phil C.
"Environmental group Friends of the Earth has circulated thousands of leaflets claiming that fracking would expose neighbourhoods to chemicals that could cause cancer because it involved "pumping millions of litres of water containing a toxic cocktail of chemicals deep underground . . . [which] could end up in your drinking water"."

The quoted passage is a very obvious and blatant intent to panic the public by disinformation about drinking water contamination, not to warn the workers already well protected from airborne silica by existing HSE guidelines. If you really didn't realise that then stfu.

Jan 29, 2016 at 12:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

JamesG, in that case do you acknowledge that the equating of sand and silica dust in the head post is nothing but a massive Straw Man, and should be corrected?


Jan 29, 2016 at 12:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhil Clarke

Silica is a perfectly natural compound found in every day life!

You'd be happy to breathe silica dust then?


Jan 29, 2016 at 12:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhil Clarke

Its called spin and NGOs are past masters at it. They publish accurate information in a completely and deliberately misleading way in order to caues panic in the population. When questioned they point out that they never actually said what the public read into the statement.

The use of silica as a carcinogen was a deliberate attempt to imply that the general public would be at risk of cancer from the activity despite the mealy mouthed apologetics from Mr Clarke.

Jan 29, 2016 at 12:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterArthur Dent

Phil Clarke


Jan 29, 2016 at 12:26 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

@Phil Clarke: Do you ever go out anywhere, Phil, because if you are so hell bent on being risk averse, then you shouldn't. Having said that, the air in your own home could well be toxic, unless you have a carbon filter-based Hepa air cleaner, that is! It's all about risk level & likelihood of an event happening. If you take a butchers at Numberwatch you'll find the precise number of things that cause far that is! BTW, don't consume any of that nasty dihydrogen-monoxide stuff, they tell me it's fatal, those swines in the nuclear industry use loads of it, they use tons of it in the energy industry, the bastards put it into our food, our drinks, our beer, wine, tonic, it's everywhere, & if you try & breath it in, it'll kill you! Sleep well.

Jan 29, 2016 at 12:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

Dear Phil,
Why don't FOE have a leaflet warning that Solar Panels can cause brain damage, with a picture of an installation engineer wearing a hard hat

Jan 29, 2016 at 12:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterEternalOptimist

There's sand in his grease,
Hot wheelies, at least.

Jan 29, 2016 at 12:54 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

EO - I think this site should come with a health warning - May Contain Myths ;-)

Jan 29, 2016 at 1:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhil Clarke

I notice that WWF are still inviting viewers (of I think it was Gold - one of those channels anyway) to send £3 to save a grainy/very-non-HD polar bear....

As the polar bears are not endangered; doing very nicely thank you - and won't get a penny anyway - doesn't this amount to fraud..?

Jan 29, 2016 at 1:08 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

OK there's a site with both the Times article and the original leaflet here (Thanks michaelroberts,and Rupe, I owe you one)

Whose making strawmen ?
We've agreed that large exposure to dust (eg sand) without proper working procedures is a cancer risk
But this leaflet doesn't make that claim, they said this :
“Help protect your COMMUNITY from Chemicals that could cause cancer."
..FoE later claimed 'we mean silica dust'

There is no real risk that "your COMMUNITY" is going to get cancer from that silica ..the risk is to the workers if precautions not taken.
..Therefore FoE have deceived ..don't you agree Phil ?

Jan 29, 2016 at 1:16 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Phil Clarke,

Mann's Hockey Stick created many illusions, or myths.

Shouldn't you be addressing them?

Inhaling silica dust, has long been known to cause death and debilitating disease, traditionally known as Miner's Lung, or Silicosis TB. This is known about, and can be prevented.

Inhaling smoke from cooking fires has been known for years to cause respiratory problems, leading to debilitating disease and death.. The Green Blob are happy for this to continue, and block developments that could prevent it.

Is Climatrollogy rewarding financially? Grave diggers like it.

Jan 29, 2016 at 1:36 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Reminiscent of the Greenpeace campaign against chlorine that provoked Dr Patrick Moore, the co-founder, to quit

Jan 29, 2016 at 1:41 PM | Unregistered Commentersrga

Good link here for silicosis:

and for carcinogenicity:

Sand as used in fracking will present zero risk to communities however. FoE are misleading in my opinion.

munroad. Retired respiratory physician with interest in occupational lung disease.

Jan 29, 2016 at 1:44 PM | Unregistered Commentermunroad


The Straw Man is that FOE claimed sand was carcinogenic, repeated in the head post and in the article you linked to. It is the silica dust that is the danger, which is why the US equivalent of the HSE issued a fracking-specific hazard alert.

And if you take the trouble to read the FOE response, it is clear that they were not referring to the silica, but chemicals in the fracking fluid.

Surface and ground water can also
be contaminated by gas, fracking fluid, or wastewater which
consists of original fracking fluid combined with a range
of new materials generated from underground (including
lead, arsenic, chromium, cadmium; and naturally occurring
radioactive material).
The health effects of these different hazards vary depending
on the type and pattern of human exposure. But they include
increased risks of cancer, respiratory disease and birth


Jan 29, 2016 at 1:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhil Clarke

Phil Clarke

the risks from the silica sand used as a proppant in fracturing rock is pretty low - even lower though is the FoE scaremongering about it. If simple steps are taken the risk is negligible. As an aside FoE twattery does not even extend to knowing what the screen size of the proppant sand is - if you don't know what I'm talking about then kindly sod off and educate yourself.

There's all that water around - what about the risk of drowning?

What if one of those sacks of Guar or Xanthan gum fell on someone's head?

Pretty woeful stuff in support of dishonest exaggerating drivel from FoE.

You'll be demanding a ban on toothpaste next - look it up.

Jan 29, 2016 at 1:50 PM | Registered Commentertomo

Mann's Hockey Stick created many illusions, or myths.

True, dat.

Jan 29, 2016 at 1:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhil Clarke

Friends of the Earth bans beer glasses.
Their campaigners have a massive presence outside pubs tonight, as try to convince patrons not to use the HAZARDOUS beer glasses which involved workers working with that cancer causing silica (sand) in their manufacture.

Jan 29, 2016 at 1:56 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Silica is a perfectly natural compound found in every day life!

You'd be happy to breathe silica dust then?

In the same vein, I'd not want to breathe in dihydrogen-monoxide. And that's pretty ubiquitous, no? Doh!

Jan 29, 2016 at 2:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield

@Phil Clarke you don't think there are super fine particles of sand (silica) flying about near some beaches on windy days ?

It would be good if you could address some of the points about the perspective of other life risks FoE don't campaign about, cos to outsiders it seems FoE don't do the maths about calculating risks

Rather it's all about dogma and they end up looking like they are acting more like lackeys to wind/solar subsidy mafia and stopping the UK using a CO2 reduction technique which has worked in the US.

Jan 29, 2016 at 2:11 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Phil Clarke would that be the same Real Climate that Michael Mann helped start, that has totally failed to recognise any problems with Mann's work?

There is a growing body of evidence that suggests Real Climate are reluctant to be credible legal witnesses, but that is a political problem now.

Jan 29, 2016 at 2:17 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Stewgreen- you're just repeating the straw man; does it not bother you that the authors of the site you linked are so desperate to smear the 'green loonies' that they concede up front that the 'quotes are made up'?

As was the beer glass thing, you're starting to look a little desperate and foolish.

Jan 29, 2016 at 2:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhil Clarke

Look at how a genuine charity such as, say, Cancer Research, behaves: They don't disseminate scare stories to raise funds, but they do try to supply truthful, accurate and helpful information to people with cancer and the general public. They don't big-up the latest 'cures' and food-fads, and they don't spend all their time hectoring politicians, companies, and the general populace with stories of impending cancer-geddon.

FoE, Greenpeace, etcetera are manifestly not charitable in word or deed. They have political objectives effectively indistinguishable from The Green Party, which has to campaign for votes the same way as the other political parties by often telling the biggest lies they think they can get away with.

Also, in terms of scope affecting the ordinary everyday lives of most people, a genuine charity will appear to have a fairly narrow focus. When considering that the climate-change twaddle is usually claimed to affect just about everything under the sun, then it becomes obvious that those asking for, nay, demanding, radical policies are acting as political agents. Charity is the last thing on their minds.

Jan 29, 2016 at 2:19 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Phil Clarke says - but edited to ensure context and accuracy:

And if you take the trouble to read the FOE response, it is clear that they were not referring to the silica, but chemicals in the fracking fluid.

Surface and ground water can also be contaminated by gas, fracking fluid, or wastewater which consists of original fracking fluid [possibly] combined with a potential range of new materials generated from underground ([maybe even] including [some traces of] lead, arsenic, chromium, cadmium; and naturally occurring radioactive material though on very small scale in relation to natural occurrences of such chemicals in our day-to-day lives]).

The health effects of these different hazards vary depending on the type and pattern of human exposure. But they include increased risks of cancer, respiratory disease and birth defects [when they are ingested at prodigious quantities]


Jan 29, 2016 at 2:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield

@Harry Passfield: Neither would I want to breath it in! There is of course that marvelous video clip on Youface or whatever it's called, where Penn & Teller go & send some stooges around a park asking people to sign a petition against Dihydrogen-Monoxide, it was amazing the technical & scientific ignorance that was on display! Loads of people signed it!

Jan 29, 2016 at 2:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

Phil Clarke: I'll grant you that the FoE are so proficient at deception that they can sound reasonable when telling their lies. Just a few facts we need to chew on though:

"Crystalline silica exposure and silicosis have been associated with work in mining, quarrying, tunneling, sandblasting, masonry, foundry work, glass manufacture, ceramic and pottery production, cement and concrete production,slate works, building construction and work with certain materials in dental laboratories."

This is presumably why the Charity Commissioners took a dim view of the implication that fracking was particularly dangerous.

You would think that with all these industries being a silicosis health risk there would be come requirement on employers to protect their workers, and there is:

"Planning is key to reducing exposures and protecting workers. Before work begins, an employer should create a job-specific plan that identifies the materials and tasks that could expose workers to silica dust, the equipment and controls that will be used to control the dust and prevent exposures, and the employee onsite who will make sure the silica plan is followed. In addition, the employer should train all employees – workers and supervisors – on the information in the plan, including how to identify a silica hazard, proper use and maintenance of equipment and controls, and the importance of using the personal protective equipment provided. This website includes several resources to help employers develop silica control plans for their jobs and train their workers. The “Create-A-Plan” tool walks an employer through 3 critical planning steps and generates a silica control plan that can be printed, emailed, or saved. In addition, the “Training and Other Resources” section includes silica-related instructional materials, toolbox talks, handouts, videos, and other resources employers can use to train their employees."

It is a well known, and widespread, problem in a lot of industries, anyone but a zealot would have checked that out. There are accepted health and safety requirements upon the employer to reduce the risks of silicosis. It is not unique to fracking, FeE deliberately misled the public as to it actual dangers.

Jan 29, 2016 at 2:27 PM | Registered Commentergeronimo

Phil Clarke would that be the same Real Climate that Michael Mann helped start

That post was hosted at RC, but guest-authored by 'Tamino'. He makes a compelling case no?

There's an um, interesting exchange between Judith Curry and Gavin Schmidt in the comments, as a bonus :-)

Jan 29, 2016 at 2:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhil Clarke

Harry P.

LOL. We don't know what fracking will look like if it ever takes off in the UK, in US it looks like this

Jan 29, 2016 at 2:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhil Clarke

@Phil Yawn, I think you are the one doing the diverting you just avoid everyones questions and push on with your spurious ones eg."does it not bother you that the authors of the site you linked are so desperate to smear the 'green loonies' that they concede up front that the 'quotes are made up'?"

The only 'quotes they use on that page' are the ones in the comedy pic cartoon speech bubbles .. And You'll see right at the top they give the context
..and then invite you to watch the video to hear the actual words.

Jan 29, 2016 at 2:33 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Stew -

A made up quote is still a made up quote. What about the pictures of sandcastles, kids on a beach? Utterly irrelevant to an industrial process that generates silica dust.

Not to be taken seriously.

Jan 29, 2016 at 2:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhil Clarke

Phil Clarke: re your link. That's one hell of a scare story in USNews, no doubt about it. I bet it would have been 10 times (conservatively) worse if you applied that 'study' to coal-mining over the last 150 years. So I guess you'd have been right behind Maggie Thatcher, giving Scargill hell for wanting to keep the mines open.

But anyway, the report, having started in full-on scare-monger mode, concludes with the typical weasel get-out clause:

However, it’s difficult to determine which health issues are a result of oil and gas operations and which stem from other factors, because symptoms often start only gradually and government air quality studies have proved limited in scope.
In other words, the report's author Dr David Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany-State University of New York, is not sure of how accurate his crystal ball is.

Jan 29, 2016 at 2:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield


Uncertainty is not your friend.

Jan 29, 2016 at 2:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhil Clarke

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