Pennsylvania residents call for action after study links fracking to asthma and lymphoma

Source: Pennsylvania Capital Star

A “bombshell” set of studies that linked fracking exposure to lymphoma, asthma and low birth weight is making waves in Pennsylvania and prompting calls by some for a ban on fracking in the state.

The studies were released only after years of pressure from people living in the heart of one the most active shale plays in the nation. Some of these residents have faced dire health consequences — and have had to battle repeated attempts by the fossil fuel industry to discredit their health concerns. For those on the front lines, the question now is what happens next.

The three studies co-published by the Pennsylvania state government and the University of Pittsburgh found serious health effects resulting from shale gas production in the southwestern part of the commonwealth. A study on the incidence of childhood cancer found five to seven times the rates of lymphoma among children who live within one mile of a natural gas well compared to those who live no closer than five miles from such a well.

A study on birth outcomes found a correlation between low birth weight and a mother’s proximity to active wells during their production phase — when oil or gas is collected from a well, after drilling fluid has been shot deep vertically, then horizontally, underground.  And a study on asthma risk found a strong link between natural gas production and hospitalization for asthma in people living within 10 miles of a natural gas well.

These findings are backed up by a mountain of previous research. But for Dr. Ned Ketyer, president of Physicians for Social Responsibility Pennsylvania, who first called on state regulators to investigate fracking’s link to a grouping of rare childhood cancer cases in 2019, the asthma revelation is, nonetheless, a “bombshell.”

“I live in Washington County,” he said. “There is no resident who lives more than 10 miles away from a fracking well or another site of fracking infrastructure.

“We are all at risk,” he continued. “And the risk is significant.”

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