Judy Eckert holding water contaminated with arsenic drawn from her private well. In 2007 Guardian Exploration drilled and fracked a Marcellus well 450ft from her home, which she believes is part of the cause of her contaminated her water supply. In 2010 DEP found a waste pit buried illegally into her season high water table. To learn more about her case you can donate to receive a copy of Triple Divide — a Public Herald documentary on fracking. - courtesy J.B.Pribanic
By Judy Stone , CONTRIBUTOR
FEB. 23, 2017
Fracking, or drilling for gas by hydraulic fracturing, has been associated with a growing number of health risks. Last week, I began this series looking at some of the hazardous chemicals injected into the wells to make drilling easier and cheaper, and the growing risks to our health by the GOP rushing through the approval of Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
This post looks in greater depth at the health problems linked to fracking. These are not hypothetical concerns—there are now more than 700 studies looking at risks—and more than 80% of the health studies document risks or actual harms.
It’s also important to note that these risks are likely to be seriously underestimated, because the environmental agencies have been downplaying the risks to the public. A new in-depth exposé from investigative journalists at Public Herald looks in-depth at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) misconduct and negligence, as the DEP studiously ignored citizens’ complaints, sometimes not even testing water samples. Earlier studies from ProPublica and others showed similar EPA failures in the western U.S.
A variety of health problems are associated with fracking
Cough, shortness of breath and wheezing are the most common complaints of residents living near fracked wells. Toxic gases like benzene are released from the rock by fracking. Similarly, a toxic waste brew of water and chemicals is often stored in open pits, releasing volatile organic compounds into the air. These noxious chemicals and particulates are also released by the diesel powered pumps used to inject the water. An epidemiological study of more than 400,000 patients of Pennsylvania’s Geisinger clinic, done with Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, found a significant association between fracking and increases in mild, moderate and severe cases of asthma (odds ratios 4.4 to 1.5). Hopkins’ Dr. Brian Schwartz cautions that residents should be aware of this hazard as “some ‘pristine’ rural areas are converted to heavily trafficked industrial areas.”
Problems during pregnancy:
Fracking chemicals are harmful to pregnant women and their developing babies. West Virginia researchers found endocrine-disrupting chemicals in surface waters near wastewater disposal sites; these types of chemicals can hurt the developing fetus even when present at very low concentrations.
Another Hopkins/Geisinger study looked at records of almost 11,000 women with newborns who lived near fracking sites and found a 40% increased chance of having a premature baby and a 30% risk of having the pregnancy be classified as “high-risk,” though they controlled for socioeconomic status and other risk factors. Contributing factors likely include air and water pollution, stress from the noise and traffic (1,000 tankers/well on average)….
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