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Physician Groups Publish "One-Stop Shop" for Fracking Science

More than 17 million people live within a mile of an active oil or gas well, including more than 2 million children and elderly people - groups especially vulnerable to air pollution and contaminated water. (Joshua Doubek/Wikimedia Commons)
More than 17 million people live within a mile of an active oil or gas well, including more than 2 million children and elderly people - groups especially vulnerable to air pollution and contaminated water. (Joshua Doubek/Wikimedia Commons)
March 21, 2018

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Physicians' groups are sounding the alarm on 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.

Joel Minor, associate attorney with the group Earthjustice, said mounting evidence shows that Wyoming families in the Upper Green River Basin 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 that they are at a higher risk for a number of health impacts,” Minor said, “most likely caused by exposure to things like benzene, that are leaked into the air during the hydraulic fracturing process."

More than 17 million Americans currently live within a mile of an active oil or gas well - including more than 2 million children and older adults, groups 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 the same as gasoline spilled when people fill up their tanks.

Minor admits that any single spill may not be significant on its own. But he warned 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 - and look at those cumulative impacts over time,” he said.

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 by Physicians for Social Responsibility and Concerned Health Professionals of New York.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - WY