John Hopkins University researchers have published a new study that proves an association between extracting unconventional natural gas through fracking and worsening asthma symptoms in people living near an extraction zone.
Asthma is a common respiratory condition in the United States, around 25 million people have it, and its attacks can be exacerbated by high levels of stress and air pollution. With this fact taken into account, researchers went to Pennsylvania to determine any possible link between these factors, where from 2005 to 2015, 6253 fracking wells had been drilled.
The study analyzed over 35,000 electronic health records of asthma patients aged 5 to 90 years, registered in Geisinger health system from Pennsylvania. The researchers compared the asthma symptoms of individuals at a certain date to how severe and often they had asthma attacks after the fracking wells were established near their living area.
The study has found a strong correlation between worsening asthma attacks and increased levels of air pollution from escaped natural gas and exposure to truck traffic near the gas wells. At the current stage of the study, researchers are hesitant to claim any proven cause between these factors and asthma attacks saying:
“They’re all potential ways that unconventional natural gas development could affect asthma exacerbations.”
The next step in their research is to determine what specific factors trigger and worsen asthma attacks in natural gas development areas. But even at this stage, researchers recommend caution to authorities that regulate fracking and urge the need to pay more attention to how it impacts both public health and the environment.
A more cautious approach has been implemented in states like New York, Vermont and even in countries like the United Kingdom, where fracking is at least temporary suspended. The local governments and other agencies called the need for further research before the natural gas industry resumes its activity.
This type of study that links a very controversial activity such as fracking with numerous other negative effects on the environment and local populations can add a lot of strength and authority to no-fracking advocates. The long list of problems that come with the extraction of natural gas through fracking has swayed the public opinion against a very profitable industry.
Have you been affected by fracking? Where do you find yourself in this debate?
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