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Concerns about the health risks of fracking continue to grow

Amy Mall

Posted May 16, 2012 in Health and the Environment

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  • According to a recent article in Inside EPA (subscription only), the National Research Council (NRC) is preparing to undertake a preliminary review of the potential human and environmental risks of shale gas development, in particular hydraulic fracturing. The article quotes an NRC senior scholar as saying that a major comprehensive study is needed across all NRC divisions because there are many issues that have not gotten careful scientific review from federal agencies.
  • The Institute of Medicine, another branch of the National Academies, is also working to identify human health concerns associated with shale gas development and examine potential frameworks, such as health impact assessments, for filling some of the data gaps.
  • An extensive new series on National Public Radio is examining "The Fracking Boom: Missing Answers" -- about why we don't know more about the health impacts of living near oil and gas production operations. The stories in this important series include "Town's Effort To Link Fracking And Illness Falls Short": many people in Dish, Texas believe their serious health symptoms are linked to nearby natural gas operations, and a scientists comments: "the development is way out ahead of public health evaluations of any kind to date." In "Medical Records Could Yield Answers On Fracking," more people report health symptoms in Pennsylvania near natural gas extraction facilities, but so far there is not the money needed for a comprehensive study. In the report on "'Close Encounters' With Gas Well Pollution," local air sampling in one Colorado County found large amounts of chemicals like benzene, a known carcinogen, as well as xylenes and others, but independent health researchers were shut down due to industry influence in local politics. In the NPR story "Sick From Fracking? Doctors, Patients Seek Answers: in Pennsylvania," people are reporting headaches, rashes, wheezing, aches and pains and other symptoms, including medical personnel who work at a health clinic with poisoned air that may be linked to natural gas operations. There are also some excellent interactive features provided by NPR as part of this series.
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