Exposure to Fracking Chemicals Linked To Migraines, Sinus Problems, Fatigue: Study

Living in close proximity to hydraulic fracturing operations, or “fracking”, may increase the risk of migraines, sinus problems and fatigue, according to the findings of new research. 

In a study published last week in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, researchers from around the country found a correlation between how close some Pennsylvania residents lived to fracking wells, and certain health problems.

Fracking is a term used to define the drilling and hydraulic fracturing of shale rock to release oil and gas. The process involves an injection of water, sand and chemicals into wells at high pressures to crack the surrounding rock, thus releasing the natural gas underground and allowing it to flow to the head of the well.

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Fracking has been alleged to cause negative environmental side effects to the surrounding communities due to the increased dust and exhaust from drilling rigs, compressors and the transportation of the water, sand and chemicals. The extent of the potential harm to humans living close to these fracking sites has yet to be determined.

Researchers questioned 23,700 adults who were patients at the Geisinger Clinic, which has multiple locations in Pennsylvania. They identified those who suffered from chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS), migraine headaches, and symptoms of fatigue. They then compared those results to their proximity to unconventional natural gas development (UNGD), also known as hydraulic fracturing, as well as well phase, location, total depth, daily gas production and other factors.

Among those who lived in close proximity to fracking operations, there was a nearly 50% increase chance of suffering CRS and migraines, an 88% increased chance of suffering CRS and fatigue, a 95% increased chance of suffering migraine plus fatigue, and an 84% increased chance of suffering all three.

“This study provides evidence that UNGD is associated with nasal and sinus, migraine headache, and fatigue symptoms in a general population representative sample,” the researchers concluded.

A similar study published in July in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that adults and children living near fracking operations were as much as four times more likely to require asthma treatments.

Fracking Health Concerns

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirmed in June 2015 that some cases of hydraulic fracturing had resulted in polluted water supplies, but the agency lacked the sufficient evidence to truly understand how widespread the problem could be and the harm it could cause to residents drinking and bath water.

Fracking has become an increasing concern to environmentalists, lawmakers, and local communities as dozens of plaintiff’s have, and continue to file lawsuits against the drilling companies for contaminating their local wells and exposing them to toxic chemicals that damaged their health and lowered their property values.

A number of lawsuits have been ruled on in fracking cases in the United States, with one of the most recent verdicts issued in March by a federal jury in Pennsylvania that awarded two families in excess of $4.2 million in damages over fracking tainting their drinking water. The two families were the last of more than 40 families in the Dimock, Pennsylvania area to resolve lawsuits over fracking problems.

Similar lawsuits have been filed in Texas which is another popular state for fracking. In 2014 a family was awarded $2.9 million in damages due to the drilling company creating a public nuisance from fracking that caused nearly two dozen wells to become contaminated with toxic chemicals.


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