The researchers found that hospitalizations for heart problems, neurological illnesses and other health conditions were higher in areas with a greater density of fracking wells. While oil and gas companies try to assure politicians and the public that the process is entirely controlled, numerous reports during the last couple of years – from institutions such as the European Union Directorate-General or the United Kingdom Department of Health – have pointed out the dangers of hydraulic fracturing.
According to the team 18 ZIP codes in its study had a well density more than 0.79 wells per square kilometer, while residents living in these ZIP codes were predicted to have a 27-per cent increase in hospitalisations for heart conditions as against those areas without any drilling. Researchers categorized 25 medical scenarios and then went on to associate each case with proximity to a fracking site. They looked at hospitalization rates for residents of Bradford and Susquehanna counties, where shale gas drilling grew dramatically during the study period, and neighboring Wayne County, where the demographics are similar but drilling has been prohibited because the county lies within the Delaware River watershed. The researchers have found a strong association between a higher density of wells and hospitalization rates for heart and neurological conditions.
The study authors also note the possibility that cardiology and neurology events are the result not of fracking, but of increased diesel fumes from trucks and heavy machinery, resulting in air pollution and noise.
Also known as hydraulic drilling, fracking has greatly increased in the U.S. since the past decade.
Hydraulic fracturing involves inserting water and chemicals under high pressure deep into rock formations to open fissures that allow oil or gas to be extracted. The hospitalizations were in three counties – Bradford, Susquehanna and Wayne – in northeastern Pennsylvania. Fracking is a term used in the oil and gas drilling industry to represent hydraulic fracturing.
In Oklahoma too, residents have urged a fracking ban and finally, several reports from European Union Directorate General of UK Department of Health have also expressed concerns on dangers presented by hydraulic fracturing.
Nevertheless, fracking has been highly criticized by environmental activists because of the pollution and health issues it causes.
A recent study that was published online in the journal PLOS One warned residents near fracking sites about the possible health risks that this activity may pose.
Lead author Reynold Panettieri, a professor of pulmonary medicine at UPenn, said the study did not prove that fracking itself was causing the illnesses, but the said hat it was suggestive.