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Residing near fracking sites have quadruple the risk of asthma, new study finds


Fracking

(NaturalNews) The most recent oil boom that boosted entire economies, sweeping through states like North Dakota, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania, was made possible by hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. This drilling technique uses a mixture of water, sand and chemicals at high pressure to crack rock and unearth multiple oil deposits more quickly, and over a greater horizontal distance. This efficient drilling method comes at a price to our health however, because it relies on various chemicals being pumped into the Earth. Fracking also displaces radioactive material and heavy metals under the Earth's crust, bringing them back to the surface where they inevitably contaminate soil and crops.

Asthma clusters discovered near Pennsylvania fracking sites

According to an 8-year study out of Pennsylvania, fracking has been associated with increased risk of asthma attacks. During the study, people living near fracking sites sought asthma treatments up to four times more often than patients living further away from the sites. Industrial activities are often correlated with higher probability of health problems. Cancer clusters are often observed in areas where radioactive waste or intense agrochemical use is a problem.

This study raises the question: How might these fracking chemicals pollute the air of the surrounding area, victimizing people with respiratory problems, while stressing people with asthma, leading to hospitalization? The exhaust and dust coming from the fracking sites could very well be having an impact on people's respiratory health.

The study didn't prove that the patients' drastic increases in asthmatic symptoms were caused directly by the fracking chemicals. Nonetheless, the association between the sites and the asthma attacks is telling. Between 2005 and 2012, over 6,200 fracking wells popped up in Pennsylvania. Researchers compiled the health records of nearly 36,000 asthma patients in 40 Pennsylvania counties during that time. They discovered that patients ordered more than 20,000 new oral steroid prescriptions for respiratory problems during that time. There were nearly 5,000 asthma hospitalizations, and almost 2,000 visits to the ER specifically for asthma. When the researchers investigated where these people resided, the results were startling.

Each region was different, but the results pointed to the same problem. People living close to fracking sites (up to 12 miles away from drilled wells) experienced between 50 to 400 percent more incidences of asthma attacks that required medical attention. The risk for asthma attacks lowered the further an individual lived from the fracking sites. The risk was lowest at about 40 miles away.

Fracking operations poison groundwater and soil with various chemicals

The list of fracking chemicals is long, and includes acids to break the rock open, biocides to kill corrosive bacteria, surfactants to improve fluid recovery and propping agents to allow for hydrocarbon production. Cross-linker chemicals are used to maintain viscosity during the high heat process, but these inevitably form different salts in the return water. Friction reducing chemicals are used, as well as chemicals to separate oil and water. The process also uses gels to thicken water, and breaker chemicals to break the gels down when needed. The entire process pollutes groundwater, and with 6,200 wells in Pennsylvania alone, the pollution quickly becomes pervasive.

When these drilling operations arrive in areas where people live, property is destroyed, adding stress, noise and chemical-laden dust to places that were once quiet and untouched. It doesn't matter if an individual owns the land, the drilling companies can come right in if they own the mineral rights to that physical property. The added stress of drillers coming in and tearing things up can also cause health problems, especially asthma attacks, which are often triggered by stress.

Sources include:

Philly.com

BMJ.com

FracFocus.org

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