Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[News article] Ohio study tracks air pollution from fracking

From the 13 May 2015 Summit County Citizen Voice

Fracked nation.

Findings confirm health risks to people living near oil and gas wells

Staff Report

FRISCO — Careful air sampling near active natural gas wells in Carroll County, Ohio showed the widespread presence of toxic air pollution at higher levels than the Environmental Protection Agency considers safe for lifetime exposure, according to scientists from Oregon State University and the University of Cincinnati.

The study reinforces the need for more extensive air quality monitoring in fracking zones around the country, where exposure to the poisonous emissions are likely to lead to increased risk of cancer and respiratory ailments.

“Air pollution from fracking operations may pose an under-recognized health hazard to people living near them,” said the study’s coauthor Kim Anderson, an environmental chemist with OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

Anderson and her colleagues collected air samples during a three-week period last February in a highly fracked area, with more than one active well site per square mile. The study was spurred by local residents who wanted to know more about possible health risks.

The air samplers were placed  on the properties of 23 volunteers living or working at sites ranging from right next to a gas well to a little more than three miles away. The samples were sent to Anderson’s lab at OSU, where the analysis showed  high levels of PAHs across the study area. Levels were highest closest to the wells and decreased by about 30 percent with distance.

Even the lowest levels — detected on sites more than a mile away from a well — were higher than previous researchers had found in downtown Chicago and near a Belgian oil refinery. They were about 10 times higher than in a rural Michigan area with no natural gas wells.

The scientists said they were able to differentiate between pollution coming directly from the earth and from other sources like wood smoke or auto exhausts, supporting the conclusion that the gas wells were contributing to the higher PAH levels.

The researchers then used a standard calculation to determine the additional cancer risk posed by airborne contaminants over a range of scenarios. For the worst-case scenario (exposure 24 hours a day over 25 years), they found that a person anywhere in the study area would be exposed at a risk level exceeding the threshold of what the EPA deems acceptable.

The highest-risk areas were those nearest the wells, Anderson said. Areas more than a mile away posed about 30 percent less risk.

Anderson cautioned that these numbers are worst-case estimates and can’t predict the risk to any particular individual.

“Actual risk would depend heavily on exposure time, exposure frequency and proximity to a natural gas well,” she said.

“We made these calculations to put our findings in context with other, similar risk assessments and to compare the levels we found with the EPA’s acceptable risk level.”

The study has other caveats, Anderson said, the main one being the small number of non-random samples used. In addition, findings aren’t necessarily applicable to other gas-producing areas, because PAH emissions are influenced by extraction techniques and by underlying geology.

The study, which appears in the journal Environmental Science & Technology‘s online edition, is part of a larger project co-led by the University of Cincinnati’s Erin Haynes, OSU’s Anderson, her graduate student Blair Paulik and Laurel Kincl, director of OSU’s Environmental Health Science Center.

 

May 20, 2015 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Journal issue contents] Journal of Environmental Science and Health — Special Issue: Facing the Challenges – Research on Shale Gas Extraction

From the March 13, 2015 Full Text Reports summary

 lesa20.v050.i05.cover

Facing the Challenges – Research on Shale Gas Extraction
Source: Journal of Environmental Science and Health: Part A – Toxic/Hazardous Substances and Environmental Engineering

  • Current perspectives on unconventional shale gas extraction in the Appalachian Basin
    David J. Lampe & John F. Stolz
  • Long-term impacts of unconventional drilling operations on human and animal health
    Michelle Bamberger & Robert E. Oswald
  • Human exposure to unconventional natural gas development: A public health demonstration of periodic high exposure to chemical mixtures in ambient air
    David R. Brown, Celia Lewis & Beth I. Weinberger
  • Reported health conditions in animals residing near natural gas wells in southwestern Pennsylvania
    I. B. Slizovskiy, L. A. Conti, S. J. Trufan, J. S. Reif, V. T. Lamers, M. H. Stowe, J. Dziura & P. M. Rabinowitz
  • Marcellus and mercury: Assessing potential impacts of unconventional natural gas extraction on aquatic ecosystems in northwestern Pennsylvania
    Christopher J. Grant, Alexander B. Weimer, Nicole K. Marks, Elliott S. Perow, Jacob M. Oster, Kristen M. Brubaker, Ryan V. Trexler, Caroline M. Solomon & Regina Lamendella
  • Data inconsistencies from states with unconventional oil and gas activity
    Samantha Malone, Matthew Kelso, Ted Auch, Karen Edelstein, Kyle Ferrar & Kirk Jalbert
  • Scintillation gamma spectrometer for analysis of hydraulic fracturing waste products
    Leong Ying, Frank O’Connor & John F. Stolz
  • Well water contamination in a rural community in southwestern Pennsylvania near unconventional shale gas extraction
    Shyama K. Alawattegama, Tetiana Kondratyuk, Renee Krynock, Matthew Bricker, Jennifer K. Rutter, Daniel J. Bain & John F. Stolz

March 15, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Repost] Investigating the health impacts of fracking

For anyone looking for in depth vetted resources.
From the 23 February 2015 post at Covering Health (Association of Health Care Journalists)

he fracking controversy has been high profile in recent years, and tempers are short on all sides of the subject. Some groups see natural gas and the process used to extract it – hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” – as a boon to energy production in the U.S., while others see it as a pernicious threat to people and the environment.

As shown in this New York Times interactive infographic, fracking (sometimes called “unconventional gas drilling”) is a complicated process. It involves high-pressure injection of fluids into natural gas reserves that lie thousands of feet underground, trapped in layers of shale. In addition, there’s a landslide of conflicting information and anecdotal evidence.

So, as a reporter, how do you sift through the various interests and pull out a story that is relevant to your community?

…..

February 25, 2015 Posted by | Public Health | , , , | Leave a comment

Potential well water contaminants highest near natural gas drilling, UT Arlington study says

Brian Fontenot and Kevin Schug, UT Arlington

Caption: Brian Fontenot, who earned his Ph.D. in quantitative biology from UT Arlington, worked with Kevin Schug, UT Arlington associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and a team of researchers to analyze samples from 100 private water wells.

Credit: UT Arlington

Usage Restrictions: None

From the 26 July 2013 EurkAlert article

A new study of 100 private water wells in and near the Barnett Shale showed elevated levels of potential contaminants such as arsenic and selenium closest to natural gas extraction sites, according to a team of researchers that was led by UT Arlington associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry Kevin Schug.

The results of the North Texas well study were published online by the journal Environmental Science & Technology Thursday. The peer-reviewed paper focuses on the presence of metals such as arsenic, barium, selenium and strontium in water samples. Many of these heavy metals occur naturally at low levels in groundwater, but disturbances from natural gas extraction activities could cause them to occur at elevated levels.

“This study alone can’t conclusively identify the exact causes of elevated levels of contaminants in areas near natural gas drilling, but it does provide a powerful argument for continued research,” said Brian Fontenot, a UT Arlington graduate with a doctorate in quantitative biology and lead author on the new paper.

He added: “We expect this to be the first of multiple projects that will ultimately help the scientific community, the natural gas industry, and most importantly, the public, understand the effects of natural gas drilling on water quality.”

Researchers believe the increased presence of metals could be due to a variety of factors including: industrial accidents such as faulty gas well casings; mechanical vibrations from natural gas drilling activity disturbing particles in neglected water well equipment; or the lowering of water tables through drought or the removal of water used for the hydraulic fracturing process. Any of these scenarios could release dangerous compounds into shallow groundwater………

 

July 26, 2013 Posted by | environmental health | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Health concerns of ‘fracking’ drawing increased attention: EPA conducting studies on health effects

From the Nation’s Health (March 2012)

“Most of our evidence at this point is anecdotal,” said Jerome Paulson, MD, FAAP, director of the Mid-Atlantic Center for Children’s Health and the Environment at George Washington University. “There really isn’t a lot of hard science on this yet.”

Paulson, an APHA member, cited a few studies — one from Wyoming that found increased levels of ozone near hydraulic fracturing sites and another by researchers at Duke who documented the presence of methane in well water near natural gas wells. But as of now, most of the indication that hydraulic fracturing might pose public health threats comes from people who live near the wells, who complain of headaches, nosebleeds, disorientation, fainting and sick animals. They say that family members have developed cancer and other chronic diseases as a result of being exposed either to the gas itself or to contaminated water resulting from its extraction.

Water is one of EPA’s biggest concerns. There is potential for chemicals used in the fracking process to leach into ground water and work their way into well water as well. The purpose of the agency’s study is to understand the relationship between hydraulic fracturing and drinking water resources. It will examine the “full lifespan of water in hydraulic fracturing,” EPA officials said in a statement, from acquisition of the water through the mixing of chemicals and the fracturing to the post fracturing, including examining what happens with the water after the fracturing and how it is treated and disposed of.

Figure

Demonstrators protest against hydraulic fracturing in New York state at a news conference in New York City in January.

Photo by Spencer Platt, courtesy Getty Images

University of Pittsburgh researchers released as-yet unpublished data in 2011 indicating problems with wastewater disposal from shale gas extraction. They found that for some period of time, wastewater from fracking sites was taken to the publicly operated water treatment plant, but the facilities were not equipped to handle that wastewater. The water that emerged from the treatment plants was chemically different from what usually came out, Paulson said. That process has since slowed or stopped, Paulson said.

EPA expects to release its first report this year and complete the study in 2014. In January, the agency also said that it was going to take the step of having water delivered to four homes in Dimock, Pa., where a data review found the well water contains contaminants at a high enough level to raise concern. Some residents of Dimock say gas well drilling that has occurred in the area over the past three years has polluted their drinking water…

Other concerns in this article include earthquakes and air pollution

Related video

Karoo challenges us to use our minds and hearts to look to the truths of proposed stepping up of natural gas production.

“In response to T. Boone Pickens’ TED Talk, “Let’s tranform energy — with natural gas”, Jonathan Deal questions the promotion of natural gas and shale gas mining as a viable solution to future energy security. ”

 

 

March 12, 2012 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

TOXMAP: Learn about toxic chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing & Update [Wyoming water wells very likely contaminated by fracking]

From the US National Library of Medicine Press Release of 30 November 2011

Hydraulic fracturing (also called hydrofracking or fracking) is a process in which millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals are pumped underground to break apart rock in order to release oil and natural gas.

The US EPA Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) program requires facilities in certain industries that manufacture, process, or use significant amounts of toxic chemicals, to report annually on their releases of these chemicals. Hydraulic fracturing is currently not a TRI-covered industry and so is not represented in TOXMAP.

EPA scientists are conducting a study of hydraulic fracturing to better understand any potential impacts on drinking water and groundwater. Congress has released a report on hydraulic fracturing (PDF, 156 KB) that lists 29 toxic chemicals used in fracturing (see Table 3 of this report). Click on the links in the table below for additional information on these chemicals:

Acetaldehyde Acetophenone Acrylamide
Benzene Benzyl chloride Copper
Cumene Di (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate Diesel
Diethanolamine Dimethyl formamide Ethylbenzene
Ethylene glycol Ethylene oxide Formaldehyde
Hydrochloric acid Hydrofluoric acid Lead
Methanol Naphthalene Nitrilotriacetic acid
p-Xylene Phenol Phthalic anhydride
Propylene oxide Sulfuric acid Thiourea
Toluene Xylene

December 7, 2011 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , , , | 5 Comments

   

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