Fracking Usage Linked to Increased Hospitalizations in Relevant Areas

There are numerous clean ways to generate electricity — continuing to rely on fossil fuels is again shown to have harmful effects.

New research has tied high rates of hospitalizations for genital, skin, and urinary conditions to fracking in Pennsylvania, underscoring mounting concerns about the public health implications of the controversial process of extracting natural gas.

Alina Denham, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Rochester, led a research team that analyzed county-level hospital data for the state from 2003 to 2014. Their findings indicated that “long-term exposure to unconventional drilling may be harmful to population health.”

The conclusion bolstered previous findings about the dangers of fracking—a process also called hydraulic fracturing that involves injecting a mix of water and chemicals into the ground to access gas.

[…]

Although the team observed spikes in hospital stays for skin, genital, and urinary conditions as regional fracking rose, they did not examine what specifically led to those ailments. While calling for further research, they offered some potential explanations, which included documented dermatological effects of the chemicals used in fracking as well as studies that have linked drilling activity to risky sexual behaviors, which could help explain the genitourinary hospitalizations.

The research and subsequent warning from Denham’s team are especially alarming considering the Trump administration’s fossil fuel-friendly agenda.

However, even before President Donald Trump took office, Pennsylvania was a hotbed for fracking. In 2017, the state was  second only to Texas in terms of natural gas production, with much of the drilling focused on Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania’s southwestern region.

And, as Denham emphasized, “it’s [an] important point to keep in mind that hospitalizations are for acute illness or serious exacerbations of chronic illness… So if we see strong associations with hospitalizations, it’s likely that additional cases of mild symptoms for the same illnesses have been addressed at home or in an outpatient setting, or not addressed at all.”

Advertisements

Fracking Endangers Localized Infant Health

The results of fracking are in actuality worse than the study details. The practice of fracking should be banned for a variety of reasons — including the contamination of drinking water reserves — and the dangers posed to infant health provide another example of why.

Health risks increase for infants born to mothers living within 2 miles of a hydraulic fracturing site, according to a study published Dec. 13 in Science Advances. The research team found that infants born within a half a mile from a fracking site were 25 percent more likely to be born at low birth weights, leaving them at greater risk of infant mortality, ADHD, asthma, lower test scores, lower schooling attainment and lower lifetime earnings.

“Given the growing evidence that pollution affects babies in utero, it should not be surprising that fracking, which is a heavy industrial activity, has negative effects on infants,” said co-author Janet M. Currie, the Henry Putnam Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton University.

“As local and state policymakers decide whether to allow hydraulic fracturing in their communities, it is crucial that they carefully examine the costs and benefits, including the potential impacts from pollution,” said study co-author Michael Greenstone, the Milton Friedman Professor in Economics and director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago. “This study provides the strongest large-scale evidence of a link between the pollution that stems from hydraulic fracturing activities and our health, specifically the health of babies.”

Scotland Bans Fracking

The environmental damage fracking causes is becoming more evident every year, whether it be from an increase in earthquakes, the contamination of drinking water sources, the greenhouse gas emissions, the dangerous toxins distributed to communities, or any combination of the four. That there are places banning fracking is therefore a positive development.

The Scottish government has banned fracking after a consultation found overwhelming public opposition and little economic justification for the industry.

Paul Wheelhouse, the Scottish energy minister, told MSPs that allowing fracking would undermine the government’s ambitions to deeply cut Scotland’s climate emissions, and would lead to unjustifiable environmental damage.

[…]

“We have a moral responsibility to tackle climate change and an economic responsibility to prepare Scotland for new low carbon opportunities,” he told the Scottish parliament.

Mary Church, the head of campaigns at Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “This is a victory for the environment and for local communities fighting fracking.

“This is a huge win for the anti-fracking movement, particularly for those on the frontline of this dirty industry here in Scotland, who have been working for a ban these last six years.”