Originally published August 14 2015
Living near fracking wells raises risk of heart failure, nerve damage, cancer and more, study shows
by Daniel Barker
(NaturalNews) The health risks associated with unconventional oil and gas drilling (UGOD), i.e. hydraulic fracturing or "fracking," have been of concern to many since the practice became widespread, but until now there has been a shortage of conclusive evidence that such risks actually exist.
A recent study, however, has shown a direct link between fracking activities and health problems in areas where the industry proliferates.
Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University have published a report that is considered to be the "most comprehensive one to date to address the health impact of UGOD."
The findings indicated that there is an increased risk of heart disease, congenital heart defects, neurologic disorders, cancer, skin problems and urologic problems in areas where fracking operations are concentrated.
The study focused on three northeastern Pennsylvania counties in which the rate of health care use was compared to drilling well density in each zip code over a five year period from 2007 through 2011.
Two of the three counties experienced an increase in drilling activities during the study period, while the third was used as a control due to the fact that it had no drilling activity - its proximity to the Delaware River watershed exempted it from oil and gas drilling on environmental grounds.
Relying on databases which contained 198,000 hospitalization reports, the researchers examined admissions records and categorized them according to "the top 25 specific medical categories for hospitalizations, as defined by the Pennsylvania Health Cost Containment Council."
The report's senior author, Reynold Panettieri, Jr., MD, concluded:
This study captured the collective response of residents to hydraulic fracturing in zip codes within the counties with higher well densities. At this point, we suspect that residents are exposed to many toxicants, noise, and social stressors due to hydraulic fracturing near their homes and this may add to the increased number of hospitalizations. This study represents one of the most comprehensive to date to link health effects with hydraulic fracturing.
More fracking, more illnessOne example of the significant findings of the study is that areas which contained more than 0.79 wells per square kilometer were associated with a "27 percent increase in cardiology inpatient prevalence rates" compared to the county where no drilling activities took place.
The report supports earlier findings from a Colorado study that indicated an increase in congenital heart defects as well as respiratory, skin and other organ disorders in areas where fracking operations are widespread.
The OGOD industry has grown rapidly over the past decade. As the study's authors note:
The United States now leads the world in producing natural gas from shale formations. Shale gas accounted for 40% of all natural gas produced in 2012. In comparison to the early 2000s, natural gas production in the US has increased with more than a 30% increase in production, due in part to the cost-effective combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing.
Industry whitewashThis "cost-effective combination" has a hidden but potentially enormous cost in terms of our health. As fracking has become a financially feasible undertaking, the oil and gas industry has done its best to cover up the risks while marginalizing any dissenting voices.
This powerful lobby has managed to whitewash the dangers while moving full speed ahead with fracking operations throughout the country.
Perhaps now, as conclusive evidence of the associated health risks begins to accumulate, the industry will be forced to clean up its act.
But for that to happen, the public needs to take an active and informed interest as well. It should be understood that no current energy-producing methods are without their drawbacks - even solar and wind energy technologies have an impact on the environment and human health, so the decisions and regulations regarding all forms of energy production require careful consideration.
It may be, however, that some methods of energy production are far too "dirty" or dangerous to be implemented on a large scale.
Fracking may very well be one of them.
If you are interested in reading other news stories like this one on fracking, visit fracking.news.
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