Study: Residents Living Near Fracking Suffer Negative Health Impacts

Self-reported respiratory problems and skin irritations were significantly greater for those living near natural gas fracking wells in southwestern Pennsylvania than those living more than two kilometers away, according to a Yale University survey.
September 11, 2014, 11am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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"People living near natural-gas wells were more than twice as likely to report upper-respiratory and skin problems than those farther away," writes Wendy Koch of USA TODAY on the study published Wednesday [Sept.10] in Environmental Health Perspectives.

"This is the largest study to look at the overall health of people living near the wells," says lead author and University of Washington environmental health professor Peter Rabinowitz, who did the research while at Yale. The study focused on Washington County, part of the Marcellus Shale where hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is widely used to extract natural gas.

The findings don't "prove that the wells caused their symptoms, say Rabinowitz, adding more research is needed," notes Koch, adding that "(p)rior peer-reviewed studies have linked fracking to possible birth defects, higher lung disease risks, methane contamination in drinking water and elevated endocrine-disrupting chemical activity in groundwater."

However, according to a July report [PDF] by the American Petroleum Institute, "(t)here are zero confirmed cases of groundwater contamination connected to the fracturing operation in 1 million wells hydraulically fractured over the past 60 years," writes Koch.

That report notes that "(h)ydraulic fracturing has been used in the oil and natural gas industry since the 1940s." What's relatively recent is the application of horizontal drilling.

[Hat tip to Alex Guillén of Politico Morning Energy, Sept. 10 edition]

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Published on Wednesday, September 10, 2014 in USA Today
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