Hydraulic Fracturing Linked To Heart Problems: Study

The findings of new research highlight an additional risk of hydraulic fracturing, suggesting that individuals living near fracking operations could face a greater risk of health problems if they are suffering from heart failure.

Hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as “fracking” involves drilling and fracturing shale rock to release oil and gas. The operations involve the 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.

Problems from fracking have previously been linked to negative environmental effects to the surrounding communities, due the impact on drinking water, as well as increased dust and exhaust from drilling rigs, compressors and the transportation of the water, sand and chemicals. The process has also been linked to increased earthquake activity, and the extent of potential harm to humans living close to these operations has remained an open question.

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In a study published in this month’s edition of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC), researchers from Johns Hopkins found increased rates of hospitalization among residents who suffered from heart failure and lived in close proximity to hydraulic fracturing gas mining operations in Pennsylvania.

Researchers evaluated potential associations with unconventional natural gas development (UNGD), or fracking, and hospitalizations among heart failure patients. The study notes that previous research has raised concerns about air pollution around such operations, and that persons suffering from heart failure are particularly susceptible to such pollution.

The study looked at data on hospitalizations among patients with heart failure using electronic health records from 2008 to 2015, and researchers identified 9,054 heart failure patients and 5,839 hospitalizations in an area of Pennsylvania fracking operations occur. They then compared when the hospitalizations occurred to when various stages of fracking operations were underway, and broke the stages of the operations into pad preparation, drilling, stimulation and production.

According to their findings, all of the stages except drilling were linked to increased hospitalizations among heart failure patients living nearby. During pad preparations procedures the risks of hospitalization rose by 70%; they increased by 80% during stimulation procedures; and 62% during production.

The study also found that the more severe the heart failure, the more likely the subjects would be hospitalized.

“We observed significantly increased odds of hospitalization among heart failure subjects in relation to increasing UNGD activity for several phases, including pad preparation, stimulation, and production, with stronger associations among persons with more severe heart failure,” the researchers concluded. “These associations are plausible given environmental impacts of UNGD.”

Fracking Health Problems

Fracking has become an increasing concern to environmentalists, lawmakers, and local communities, as dozens of plaintiffs 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 fracking lawsuits have been filed in the United States, with one of the most recent verdicts issued in March 2017 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.

Fracking operations also face an increasing number of lawsuits over earthquakes in Oklahoma and other states. Recent research has linked fracking wells to an unprecedented increase in powerful earthquakes across the South and Midwest. U.S. government geologists now say that Oklahoma suffers more earthquakes than California, due entirely to fracking and oil and gas wastewater disposal wells.

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