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Study: Fracking Pollution Disproportionately Impacts Children

Children and infants are especially at risk for health problems due to fracking, according to a new study. (AnitaStarzycka/Pixabay)
Children and infants are especially at risk for health problems due to fracking, according to a new study. (AnitaStarzycka/Pixabay)
May 23, 2016

CHEYENNE, Wyo. - Children and infants are especially at risk for health problems due to fracking, according to a new study by the Center for Environmental Health.

Ellen Webb, health energy sciences and advocacy manager for the Center and the report's lead author, says it's the first comprehensive literature review on respiratory risks associated with unconventional oil and gas operations.

"Air pollution is basically routine in fracking," says Webb. "So many people living near fracking have reported health problems, but the actual literature being able to show cause and effect is really just starting to emerge."

The study focused on five pollutants recognized as hazardous by several federal agencies that are produced during the fracking process: ozone, particulate matter, silica dust, benzene and formaldehyde.

The report's authors are calling for more research to get a better understanding of fracking's health impacts.

Webb notes because of the 2005 Energy Policy Act, chemicals used in fracking are not made public. To understand the complete scope of respiratory health effects, she believes full disclosure is critical.

"Unfortunately, the oil and gas industry has been exempted from almost all federal environmental regulations," says Webb. "Additionally, states are preempted from adopting their own rules to protect their residents' health."

She adds the Environmental Protection Agency's recent proposals to cut methane emissions in the oil and gas industry are a good first step, but more needs to be done to reduce health risks.

Webb says the reason children are most at risk is because their lungs are still developing, and their size and proximity to the ground means they ingest a greater concentration of pollutants than adults.

"These are our children. These are the future generation," says Webb. "Children don't have the voice to always speak for themselves, so we need to be that voice, and we need to protect them."

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - WY