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Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Science Health

The Health Effects of Hydraulic Fracturing

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In the past few years, protesters who have opposed Marcellus Shale activities have focused on the detrimental effects that they believe drilling for natural gas could have on the water, and air, and ultimately everyone’s health.
(Erika Beras/Essential Public Radio)
Jean Moten, resident of Ray, West Virginia, and the well water that she says made her sick.

In the past few years, protesters who have opposed Marcellus Shale activities have focused on the detrimental effects that they believe drilling for natural gas could have on the water, and air, and ultimately everyone’s health.

But those concerns have been mostly anecdotal, leaning on stories that people have told about the effects that the gas drilling process has had on their neighbors, livestock, pets, and family members —  tales that without scientific evidence, that gas drilling companies readily refute.

Last week the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health held their second annual conference on the Health Effects of Shale Gas Extraction, expanding the dialog on the clinical effects that hydraulic fracturing has on residents and, they hope, laying the groundwork for evidence-based diagnoses.

Bernard Goldstein is a professor of environmental and occupational health at Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health.

We know not anywhere as much as we need to know and unfortunately, we are not on a pathway to find out what we need to do. The federal government has invested money, but it’s on whether groundwater is affected, not health effects, not community issues, at least not for at least a few years,” he said.

He says that there are plans for publicly funded studies on the health impacts of drilling, but those won’t be launched for a few more years.

In the meantime, people are living in communities and self-diagnosing with diseases that they believe have been caused by hydraulic fracturing.

Preliminary studies are being done

Earlier this year, Eli Avila, Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Public Health, testified before the Governor’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission about the need for creating a health registry that would track whether illnesses are related to drilling. This would refute or verify a growing number of concerns or complaints.

He said that the state’s Department of Epidemiology receives inquiries and complaints from citizens, health care providers, public officials, and communities concerned about the health effects caused by environmental exposures.

If you drive around Washington County’s rolling hills and scattered farmhouses, you’ll see numerous gas wells and a seemingly endless parade of trucks on the narrow roads.

Debbie Peeples has lived her whole life in the tiny West Virginia community of Ray. The town of about a dozen homes lies downhill from several well pads in a part of the state that is booming with drilling activity. She believes their well water has been contaminated and the health of her family has declined. She blames it on drilling.

Peeples has not been as healthy as she would like recently, and she blames that on the drilling near her home as well. She said that others in her small town are reporting similar symptoms.

Medical facilities in the area that normally only treat industrial workers who are directly exposed to chemicals used in fracking are starting to ramp up their offerings to begin treating residents who are starting to report similar symptoms.

However, without the research to back up their claims, it is hard to know what is to blame for their illnesses.


Marcellus Shale


Tuesday, November 29, 2011, 7:10 AM
jd wrote:

yea i lived smack dAB in it for 12 years , fraced everyday of it !! im still here and ive had stuff spilled all over me ! i spend hours breathing in the toxic fumes yopu speak of , but yet i havnt so much as had the flue in years ! care to explain how someone 5 miles away gets sick but yet all the workers that are right in the middle of it dont get sick !??


Tuesday, November 29, 2011, 7:07 AM
jd wrote:

ya think the men and women that work on the frac crews everyday at close proximity would be breathing in these chemicals or bad air and it would be affecting them !! i call bullshit ! i worked 5 years , sometimes 3 or 4 fracs a day and there isnt anything rong with me what so ever , no skin irratastions , no weezing or cheast issues , these folks are full of shit , it dont hurt the men who live in it everyday buit yet it hurts people 10 miles down the road , if ya ask me they are just pissed they aint getting a piece of the pie , everyone hates it until they off to drill on your land and pay you then you are all,  hush hush !! go hoem anti drillers , yuou have gone from complaining all the way to poisioning your own animals and blaming it on drilling just to get your point across , until they offer to drill and pay you , then its florida bound for you !! hypicrates !! if you want to make a impact then stop using fossil fuels and driving that gas gussler car !!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011, 10:26 AM
Really ? wrote:

" ……..people have become sickened and died."   

Really ? -— considering our litigious society ( ie : hot coffee from McDonald's spilled in your lap = $$$$ ), I'm sure the lawyers are all over that one.    Multi-million dollar settlements must be occuring as we speak.   I'm sure they are going class action too -— making entire towns "injured parties".    I see tobacco scale settlements coming soon !!

Oh wait -— that isn't happening.   Let's see -— could it be that there are no cases for the lawyers to chase because it isn't happening ??

Naaahhh-— the lawyers must be part of the vast conspiracy James oulines above too !! - shhh -- I hear black helicopters !!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011, 7:41 AM
James Barth wrote:

"…without the research to back up their claims, it is hard to know what is to blame for their illnesses."

This is exactly what the shale gas extraction industry wants.  This is exactly what those in government who support shale gas extraction want.  This is why, a decade after the Barnett had been developed, and two decades since Wyoming and Colorado have been ramped up, and five years after this type of drilling began in Pennsylvania, we still are in this same situation. 

There are hundreds of specific cases of private drinking water well contaminations, ground level ozone and air pollution has skyrocketed, people have become sickened and died, and very little study has been undertaken.  This way, those supporters in government, and those Energy in Depth lobbyists can continue to say, "it's anecdotal".


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