As the fracking boom takes head, more health-related concerns surface with few studies to provide insight on the matter.
As scientific studies are scarce, a research team comprising scientists from two Environmental Health Science Core Centers (EHSCC) took on the task of analyzing hospitalization rates in relation to fracking sites across the state.
The study, published in the PLOS ONE journal, concluded that where hydraulic fracturing was taking place, the number of hospitalizations in relation to zip codes increased significantly.
The study looked specifically at three counties in the state of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is the largest fracking state in the U.S, as 6,000 wells have been drilled since 2008 in the Marcellus Shale.
The three counties – Bradford, Susquehanna and Wayne – have been followed between 2007 and 2011. Wayne represented the control county, as no drilling activity occurred in its area. The researchers started by looking at the health records of 198,000 patients hospitalized in all three counties.
The first 25 medical categories for the hospitalization were of particular interest to the study. Pennsylvania Health Cost Containment Council is responsible for defining the medical categories. The medical categories were then associated with the zip codes of the patients.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the correlation of data indicated that in the proximity of fracking sites, the number of hospitalizations recorded due to neurological illnesses, heart problems, pulmonary problems as well as others, experienced a spike.
Those patients who were found to live in the span of 18 zip codes from the fracking wells presented a 27 percent increased chances of hospitalization due to heart problems on a year to year basis.
For Wayne county the same did not apply. The span of 18 zip codes in the other two counties was related to a fracking well density of 0.79/ square kilometer. Other medical problems occurring in these areas were cancer, skin problems, as well as urologic.
Senior author of the study, Doctor Reynold Panettieri, also professor of medicine and the deputy director of the Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology (CEET) at Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine, stated:
“At this point, we suspect that residents are exposed to many toxicants, noise and social stressors due to hydraulic fracturing near their homes and this may add to the increased number of hospitalizations. This study represents one of the most comprehensive to date to link health effects with hydraulic fracturing.”
While the study doesn’t specifically link the health issues experienced in the two Pennsylvania counties to the substances or procedures used in the fracking process. It is hoped that more research will follow this thread.
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