An investigative report warns that shale-gas mining practices, such as hydraulic fracturing, are negatively impacting the health of individuals who live in nearby areas, including the unborn children.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published the second in a series of reports earlier this month, titled “The Human Toll“, which highlights the side effects of pollution caused by hydraulic fracturing and other gas mining practices. The report indicates that numerous studies have found gas extraction is linked to a variety of health problems.
More commonly referred to as “fracking”, hydraulic fracturing involves drilling and fracturing of shale rock to release oil and gas. Fracking results in 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. The extent of the potential harm to humans living close to these fracking sites has yet to be determined.
This latest report cites a compendium published by the Concerned Health Professionals of New York and Physicians for Social Responsibility, which found that, out of 1,778 peer-reviewed studies, 90.3% published from 2016 through 2018 linked fracking with harm or potential harm.
“In our review of the data, seventeen compelling themes emerged; these serve as the organizational structure of the Compendium,” the compendium’s authors state. “Readers will notice the ongoing upsurge in reported problems and health impacts, making each section top-heavy with recent data.”
According to the investigative report, studies have linked living near fracking operations to an increased risk of asthma in school children, an increased risk of preterm births, low birth-weight babies and high-risk pregnancies. Some studies have also found an increased risk of birth defects, miscarriages, and other health problems.
The report notes that health outcomes worsen the closer a person lives to shale gas operations, and that these health problems can occur below established safe exposure thresholds.
It was released on the same day as a study by researchers at the University of Colorado which found that pregnant women who live near fracking operations face an increased risk of having a child with congenital heart defects.
Fracking Health Side Effects
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.
Similar cases 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.
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.
A number of states, including New York and Maryland, have either banned the procedure or placed moratoriums on fracking operations until the health effects are better understood.