A new study has linked hydraulic fracturing, a controversial method of extracting natural gas, with an increase in hospitalizations in the Marcellus Shale region in Pennsylvania.
People have long feared the health risks posed by hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” a recently embraced form of energy extraction that makes large cracks in shale formations to extract natural gas. According to a report from Philly.com, these folks may be justified in their concerns.
Even though there has been little scientific evidence that fracking poses risks to human health, a new study from doctors at the University of Pennsylvania has shown that hospitalizations have shot up in areas where more wells have already been drilled in the northern part of the state.
The study’s findings echo a similar study from the University of Pittsburgh a month ago that linked wells in the southwestern part of the state to an average lower birth weight for babies born to mothers living in areas with abundant fracking wells.
While it is important to remember that the research only shows a correlation between fracking and hospitalizations and not a cause and effect, it’s one of the first peer-reviewed studies highlighting the health effects of the popular gas extraction method.
The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE, and examined 93,000 hospital patients, sorted by zip code, over the course of four years. In the counties where fracking has exploded in popularity over the past few years, there was a significant uptick in hospitalizations for cardiology and neurology related issues.
Scientists say it’s the dramatic increase in diesel exhaust fumes from the trucks required to extract gas and noise from the sites that are among the main drivers of adverse health effects in these areas.
Scientists have struggled to demonstrate concrete links between fracking and health risks because of the high number of chemicals used and steps to the process. What is obvious, however, is that people who live in areas with high fracking activity are statistically more likely to make a trip to the hospital than people in other areas.