Pilot study: Group of Bradford Co, Pa. residents concerned about health effects of hydrofracking

Apr 28, 2013

Residents living in areas near natural gas operations, also known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, are concerned their illnesses may be a result of nearby drilling operations. Twenty-two percent of the participants in a small pilot study surmise that hydrofracking may be the cause of such health concerns as sinus problems, sleeping difficulties, and gastrointestinal problems.

The findings will be presented at the American Occupational Health Conference on April 28 in Orlando, Florida.

Scientists collected responses from 72 adults visiting a primary care physician's office in the hydrofracking-heavy area of Bradford County, Pa., who volunteered to complete an investigator-faciliated survey.

"Almost a quarter of participants consider natural gas operations to be a contributor to their health issues, indicating that there is clearly a concern among residents that should be addressed," says Pouné Saberi, MD, MPH, the study's principal investigator with the department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania. She is also an investigator with the Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology (CEET) at Penn.

Within these 22 percent of responders, 13 percent viewed drilling to be the cause of their current health complaints and 9 percent were concerned that problems can be caused by natural gas operations. The previous health complaints by participants were thought to be anecdotal in nature as they were individual cases reported publicly only by popular media.

"What is significant about this study is that the prevalence of impressions about attributed to natural gas operations had not been previously solicited in Pennsylvania. This survey indicates that there is a larger group of people with health concerns than originally assumed," explains Saberi.

The survey included questions about 29 health symptoms, including those previously anecdotally reported by other residents and workers in other areas where drilling occurs. Some patient medical records were also reviewed to compare reported symptoms with those that had been previously documented. "Sinus problems, , and were the most common symptoms reported on the Bradford survey," notes Saberi. "Of the few studied charts, there were no one-to-one correlations between the participants' reported symptoms on the survey and the presenting symptom to the medical provider in the records. This raises the possibility of communication gaps between residents with concerns and the medical community and needs further exploration. An opportunity exists to educate shale region communities and workers to report, as well as health care providers to document, the attributed symptoms as precisely as possible."

The CEET team also mapped the addresses of patients who agreed to provide them in relation to drilling to determine if proximity to may relate to health problems.

"We hope this pilot study will guide the development of future epidemiological studies to determine whether health effects in communities in which operations are occurring is associated with air, water, and food-shed exposures and will provide a basis for health care provider education," says CEET director Trevor Penning, PhD. "The goal of science should be to protect the public and the environment before harm occurs; not simply to treat it after the damage has been done."

The Bradford County health concerns is one of three hydrofracking studies currently underway at CEET, one of 20 Environmental Health Sciences Core Centers (EHSCC) in the US, funded by the National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).

CEET is also partnering with Columbia University's EHSCC to measure water quality and billable health outcomes in areas with and without hydrofracking on the Pennsylvania-New York border. Using a new mapping tool developed by Harvard University, CEET and Harvard researchers are creating maps of drilling sites, air quality, water quality, and health effects to locate possible associations. Initial studies will focus on Pennsylvania. Results of both studies are expected in early 2014. These collaborative studies are funded by pilot project funds from the respective EHSCCs, which in turn obtain their financial support from NIEHS.

Explore further: MEPs back plans to slash use of plastic shopping bags

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Reproductive problems, death in animals exposed to fracking

Mar 08, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new report has found dozens of cases of illness, death and reproductive issues in cows, horses, goats, llamas, chickens, dogs, cats, fish and other wildlife, and humans. It says these conditions could be ...

US health experts seek more study on 'fracking'

Jan 09, 2012

A group of US medical professionals called Monday for a halt to a type of drilling for natural gas called "fracking" in populated areas until more is known about its health impacts.

Hundreds attend EPA hearing on Pa. gas drilling

Jul 22, 2010

(AP) -- Hundreds of people are attending a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency hearing in southwestern Pennsylvania on a controversial natural gas drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking."

Recommended for you

More, bigger wildfires burning western US, study shows

5 hours ago

Wildfires across the western United States have been getting bigger and more frequent over the last 30 years – a trend that could continue as climate change causes temperatures to rise and drought to become ...

User comments : 7

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Apr 29, 2013
I am finding that these companies are doing the water testing themselves and even filtering them before sending them to the labs for the analysis, then guess what? The test results are always in the favor of the company, They call it an Independent analysis but it's been filtered by the company before being sent to the lab. HOW CAN THAT BE CLASSIFIED AS INDEPENDENT?
1 / 5 (3) Apr 30, 2013
Fracking is done in shales way below the water table, so contamination is very unlikely, and the chemicals used are to a large extent, non toxic.
What we have here, is a psychological phenomena, made worse by modern media and bad science I see posted everywhere, every day!
The placebo effect is a double edged sword!
1.7 / 5 (6) Apr 30, 2013
Fracking is done in shales way below the water table, so contamination is very unlikely, and the chemicals used are to a large extent, non toxic.
What we have here, is a psychological phenomena, made worse by modern media and bad science I see posted everywhere, every day!
The placebo effect is a double edged sword!

You've obviously done no independent research on the subject, but just quaffed the industry Kool Aid.
1 / 5 (3) Apr 30, 2013
And you, the BS found on the internet. Not sure you would be able to disect this list.

1.7 / 5 (6) Apr 30, 2013
And you, the BS found on the internet. Not sure you would be able to disect this list.


Apparently you've no clue as to how toxic many on that list are.

How about we feed you a concoction comprised of all those?
1 / 5 (3) Apr 30, 2013
That has no bearing on how these chemicals are used or their concentrations.

No clue eh? I have been working in the technical gas industry for over twenty years and qualified in Chemistry and Pharmacology, so I don't know what you are trying to prove.
Your profile is kinda scant with details :p

1.7 / 5 (6) May 01, 2013
Come live in PA and get some up-close and personal experience with the facts on the ground.

BTW, if fracking is so damned safe, why did the Republicans in Harrisburg feel it necessary to enact legislation that holds the frackers held virtually unaccountable for any adverse consequences of their activities? Or, enact a gag rule with respect to disclosure of the chemicals that they are using?

While you may know the theoretical side of fracking, you obviously know little about the practice.

More news stories

There's something ancient in the icebox

Glaciers are commonly thought to work like a belt sander. As they move over the land they scrape off everything—vegetation, soil, and even the top layer of bedrock. So scientists were greatly surprised ...

Clean air: Fewer sources for self-cleaning

Up to now, HONO, also known as nitrous acid, was considered one of the most important sources of hydroxyl radicals (OH), which are regarded as the detergent of the atmosphere, allowing the air to clean itself. ...

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...