Does fracking pose a public health hazard?

Does fracking pose a public health hazard?


Experts are torn as to whether horizontal fracking poses significant public health hazards.

Wilma Subra, president of Subra Co., an environmental consulting firm, said that fracking and its many spin-off industries pollute air and water and cause various illnesses to communities where horizontal fracking takes place.

Fracking is the process in which water, chemicals and sand are blasted into rocks thousands of feet below the ground to unlock natural gas and oil.

Subra said she has documented various substances, including methane, nitrate, sulfate and arsenic in drinking water near fracking sites.

Subra, however, said she does not have data to prove how much of those chemicals were present in the water, leaving some of her peers skeptical.

“The question is the dose,” said Bernard Goldstein of the University of Pittsburgh. “It’s not just whether the chemical is in there.”

Subra said that her research found that 81 percent of surveyed residents living within two miles of a well site or natural gas compression station reported respiratory problems.

Subra did not provide survey sample sizes and did not disclose if those surveyed reported those same health conditions prior to drilling.

Goldstein said that information is relevant maintain objectivity.

“These things should not be causing contamination,” he said. “We don’t know if they are, but we need to find out.”

Stay tuned for more from the Physicians Scientists & Engineers for Healthy Energy and The Mid-Atlantic Center for Children’s Health and the Environment Shale Drilling Public Health Conference.

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