Residents Near Gas Wells Exhibit Health Symptoms

September 11, 2014

A Yale study has shown that residents who live closer to natural gas wells, including ones where fracking is used, report more upper respiratory and skin symptoms than those who live farther away from the wells. (Lynn Ischay, The Plain Dealer)

Cleveland.com:

CLEVELAND, Ohio — People who live closer to natural gas wells, including those that were drilled using “fracking,” or hydraulic fracturing, report more health symptoms than those who live farther away, according to a study reported today by Yale University researchers.

The study, which drew strong negative reaction from the oil and gas industry, was published online in Environmental Health Perspectives, a journal of the National Institutes of Health. It surveyed 492 people in 180 households with ground-fed water wells in southwestern Pennsylvania, where the concentration of natural gas extraction is very high.

Respondents, who were not asked about fracking, reported more upper respiratory and dermal (skin) symptoms over the past year when they lived less than a kilometer from a gas well, and fewer such symptoms when they lived more than two kilometers from a well. There was no such difference in other health symptoms reported in the survey, which included heart, gastrointestinal and neurological complaints, among others.

“The result stood even when we controlled for a lot of other things, so it wasn’t just a simple correlation,” said Meredith Stowe, senior author on the paper and an associate research scientist and epidemiologist at the Yale Occupational and Environmental Medicine Program. Researchers controlled for the survey respondents’ age, gender, smoking status, education level, and awareness of environmental risk factors in the study.

USAToday:

Prior peer-reviewed studies have linked fracking to possible birth defects, higher lung disease risks, methane contamination in drinking water and elevated endocrine-disrupting chemical activity in groundwater. Some environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, oppose fracking, saying it has insufficient safeguards.

Yet the oil and gas industry defends fracking as a safe way to bolster the U.S. economy and lessen the nation’s dependence on foreign sources of energy.

“There are zero confirmed cases of groundwater contamination connected to the fracturing operation in 1 million wells hydraulically fractured over the past 60 years,” says a July report by the American Petroleum Institute. It says “numerous protective measures are in place at well sites” and “federal statues regulate every step” of the process.

“We don’t really know the cause” of the higher self-reported health symptoms, says Yale research scientist Meredith Stowe, co-author of the paper, which was published in Environmental Health Perspectives.

“There’s a number of possible air contaminants,” Rabinowitz says, noting the flaring of gas wells and the diesel exhaust from heavy equipment at fracking sites. Also, the study notes that well water could become contaminated if there are breaks in the gas well casing or other leaks from fracking activities.

“Stress could also be a cause of skin rashes,” he says. He found the disparities in skin and respiratory symptoms persisted even after adjusting for participants’ gender, age, educational level, smoking and awareness of environmental risk factors.

3 Responses to “Residents Near Gas Wells Exhibit Health Symptoms”


  1. Interesting. People living near wind turbines have the same problem.


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