New Reporting on Fracking and Public Health

By John McFerrin

The Environmental Health News has announced the results of the effects of hydraulic fracturing (aka fracking) on public health.  The results were dramatic.

The goal of the reporting was to provide information on the effects of living near fracked wells.  Its core was the testing of families who lived near fracked wells.  It describes the testing program this way:

In the summer of 2019, we collected air, water, and urine samples from five nonsmoking southwestern Pennsylvania households. All of the households included at least one child. Three households were in Washington County within two miles of numerous fracking wells, pipelines, and compressor stations. Two households were in Westmoreland County, at least five miles away from the nearest active fracking well.

Over a 9-week period we collected a total of 59 urine samples, 39 air samples, and 13 water samples. Scientists at the University of Missouri analyzed the samples using the best available technology to look for 40 of the chemicals most commonly found in emissions from fracking sites (based on other air and water monitoring studies). 

The results of the sampling showed chemicals such as benzene and butylcyclohexane in drinking water and air samples, and breakdown products for chemicals like ethylbenzene, styrene, and toluene in the bodies of children living near fracking wells at levels up to 91 times as high as the average American and substantially higher than levels seen in the average adult cigarette smoker. 

The reporting acknowledges that this is a relatively small sample and that it would be difficult to make broad generalizations about the entire population based upon these results.  At the same time, however, the chemicals found are linked to serious health risks.  They deserve to be taken seriously.

The sampling is the starting point for a four part series.  There are discussions of the health impacts of living near gas wells, the stresses involved, frustrations with regulators, and efforts by citizens to respond to the threats.

The study was done by Environmental Health News.  It describes itself as “a publication of Environmental Health Sciences, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to driving science into public discussion and policy on environmental health issues, including climate change.”

To read the whole story, go to  The story is in four parts; it also has links to more detailed studies of similar problems.