New Study Finds Connection Between Fracking And Increased Hospitalizations

A study published earlier this week reveals a significant connection between fracking and increased hospitalizations.

Credit: wypr.org

Credit: wypr.org

A new study conducted by some of the nation’s top public health researchers determined a relationship between increased hospitalizations and hydraulic fracturing.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a method of extracting oil and natural gas. The process has surged rapidly in the United States over the past decade. While the technology has been credited with decreasing the nation’s dependence on foreign and imported fuel, the method is a known contributor to air and water pollution.

As Treehugger shared, researchers from Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health as well as Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine and Center for Environmental Health set intention to figure out if increased fracking along Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale formation has had any effect on the health of nearby communities. The researchers analyzed the number of hospitalizations and the number of fracking wells for different zip codes in Bradford, Susquehanna, and Wayne County.

All data analyzed for the study was from 2007 to 2011. During that period of time, a substantial increase in the number of fracking wells in Bradford and Susquehanna occurred. Bradford has since banned fracking because the area is so close to the Delaware River watershed.

The researchers shared their findings in the open access journal PLOS ONE. What they found is that hospitalizations for heart problems, neurological illnesses, and other health conditions were higher in areas with a greater density of fracking wells.

Activists protesting fracking.  Credit: marcellusprotest.org

Activists protesting fracking.
Credit: marcellusprotest.org

While some might believe the connection is a coincidence, the authors state that finding such a significant association over this short of a time period is remarkable

“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,” said senior author Reynold Panettieri, Jr., MD in a statement. “This study represents one of the most comprehensive to date to link health effects with hydraulic fracturing.”

Even though the study cannot yet determine what factor of fracking is to blame for causing more health problems (correlation doesn’t prove causation, after all), the connection is an intriguing find.

The researchers go on to suggest that more study of the health risks of fracking is merited and that the economic benefits of fracking should be weighed against healthcare costs.

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