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A historic summit between North and South Korea. Also on the Friday rundown: teachers continue their fight for funding; the EPA chief grilled on Capitol Hill; and remembering those who’ve lost their lives on the job.

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Medical Groups Publish Comprehensive Guide to Fracking Health Risks

More than 17 million people live within a mile of an active oil or gas well, including more than 2 million children and older adults. (Getty Images)
More than 17 million people live within a mile of an active oil or gas well, including more than 2 million children and older adults. (Getty Images)
March 22, 2018

DENVER – Physicians' groups are sounding the alarm about the health risks posed by hydraulic fracturing, and have published a compendium of scientific evidence that they say confirms the damage caused by fracking operations.

According to attorney Joel Minor with the environmental law firm Earthjustice, mounting evidence shows that Colorado families living on the northern Front Range are exposed to harmful volatile organic compounds released into the air, which can lead to increased asthma attacks, heart attacks and even premature death.

"This compendium really puts that all in one place, and shows people who live near unconventional oil and gas wells are at a higher risk for a number of health impacts - most likely caused by exposure to things like benzene, that are leaked into the air during the hydraulic-fracturing process," said Minor.

More than 17 million Americans live within a mile of an active oil or gas well, including more than two million children and older adults, groups considered especially vulnerable to air pollution and contaminated water.

Proponents of fracking say when done correctly, the process is environmentally safe, and claim any spills or leaks are essentially similar to gasoline spilled when people fill up their tanks.

Minor admits that any single spill may not be significant on its own. But he warned that pollution, which largely occurs when transporting chemicals and wastewater - especially near watersheds and farmlands - can be cause for concern.

"I think it's important to look at all of those spills together, and think about the total volume of chemicals and fluids, and waste products that are being spilled," he said, "and look at those cumulative impacts over time."

Other health risks linked with fracking include respiratory disease, cancer, and two leading causes of infant death. Researchers also found that a disproportionate number of drilling operations and other infrastructure are located close to low-income areas and communities of color.

The report was published jointly by Physicians for Social Responsibility and Concerned Health Professionals of New York.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO