Asthma sufferers who live near wells in which hydraulic fracturing is used to extract natural gas are up to four times more likely to have an asthma attack than those who live farther away, according to new research from the Johns Hopkins University.I doubt if that were really the point, or the reason the study was funded.
The findings are the latest in a string of studies that have linked health problems to proximity to such wells, and come as Maryland prepares to lift a moratorium next year and issue permits for the controversial method of extraction known as "fracking."
"Ours is the first to look at asthma, but we now have several studies suggesting adverse health outcomes related to the drilling of unconventional natural gas wells," said Sara G. Rasmussen, a study leader and doctoral candidate in the department of environmental health sciences at Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health.
"Going forward, we need to focus on the exact reasons why these things are happening," she said, "because if we know why, we can help make the industry safer."
Rasmussen and other investigators agree that more study is needed to determine the cause of the negative health outcomes. Other research has connected proximity to the wells to pre-term births and lower birth weights, respiratory and skin irritation, and increased hospitalizations in neurology, oncology and urology.This is a correlative study, not a controlled clinical experiment, the gold standard for a medical
The Hopkins study looked at the health records of 35,000 asthma patients in the Geisinger Health System and found there were more mild attacks requiring inhalers, more moderate attacks requiring an emergency room visit and more severe attacks requiring hospitalization.
Rasmussen said air pollution and stress from added noise, vibrations and truck traffic could explain the risk. She said asthma complications manifest quickly after exposure to triggers, making the disease a good bellwether for potential health effects.So, really, she has no clue as to what a mechanism for the apparent relationship is. Maybe asthma causes fracking? Or maybe people are allergic to anti-fracking propaganda?
"Numerous studies that have actually measured emissions directly on well pads have shown that development is protective of public health," said Seth Whitehead, researcher for an outreach campaign by the Independent Petroleum Association of America, which represents oil and gas producers. "It's curious that studies funded, written or peer-reviewed by activists — as the Pennsylvania asthma study clearly was — never seem to include direct air measurements."Don't turn on the lights, 'cause we they don't want to see.