Fracking Study Results Released

August 16, 2023 4:49 am

In 2019, Governor Tom Wolf funded a $2.5 million study to be overseen by the Department of Health regarding effects of Unconventional Natural Gas Development otherwise known as “fracking” on the health of Pennsylvanians. In 2020 the DOH authorized the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health to perform an epidemiological study that asked the question “Does living near unconventional natural gas development activities or other environmental hazards in Southwest Pennsylvania increase the risk of specific health issues?” The study concentrated on three main areas, Asthma, Birth Outcomes and Childhood Cancer. Results of that study were revealed Tuesday at the Natali Student Center on the campus of PennWest California University. According to Alison Steele, Executive Director of the Environmental Health Project, the results were what she expected. Because epidemiological studies only show correlation and not causation she was not surprised at the results. In the area of adverse birth outcomes, the study learned that babies born to mothers living near actively producing wells had babies that were born 1 ounce lighter than average. That lighter weight poses no significant risk. In the Asthma study, there was a strong link between actively producing wells and severe exacerbations of asthma and hospital emergency department visits for people living within 10 miles of an active well. They also have a 4-5 times greater risk of having an asthma attack. The disappointing result for the audience was with Childhood Cancer. No associations were found between fracking activities and the development of childhood leukemia, brain or bone cancers including Ewing’s Sarcoma. Ther results did show that children living within a mile of one or more wells had a 5-7 times more likelihood of developing lymphoma. A two hour question and answer period displayed frustration from the audience. They wanted to know why this type of study was performed. They are looking for studies that relate to radioactive elements in the soil and water along with air pollution studies. A written statement put out by the DOH after the meeting states that they are working on implementing the findings of the Statewide 43rd Grand Jury report released by then Attorney General, now Governor Josh Shapiro regarding fracking activities.