Hydraulic fracturing may have a negative effect on the heart condition of people who live in nearby areas, according to a recent study published in the PLOS ONE journal. The research was realized by a joint team of Columbia University and University of Pennsylvania researchers, and showed that people who live near areas where hydraulic fracturing, or fracking as it is commonly known, generally have a worse heart health history than usual.
The researchers compared hospitalization rates from different areas around Pennsylvania during a four year period between 2007 and 2011, and found that areas in which fracking is practiced show higher hospitalization rates than those from which it is absent.
More specifically, areas amounting for 18 ZIP codes in the study – all of which had a fracking well density 0.79 per square kilometer or higher – were found to have a 27 percent higher hospitalization rate for heart condition than those in areas which do not have wells. The results also showed an increased preponderance towards skin condition, neurological illnesses and cancer.
In the news release announcing the results of the study, author Reynold Panettieri said that the researchers suspects the higher hospitalization rates to be related to exposure to toxic substances, but more importantly to stress factors such as noise caused by hydraulic fracturing in their vicinity.
However, researchers concluded that this does not provide any cause-effect relationship between hydraulic fracturing and overall health of the residents in nearby areas. These numbers are merely observations, and any speculation about direct negative consequences related to fracking must be proved by further studies,
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a controversial oil and gas extraction technique very popular with extraction companies nowadays, which uses a chemical mixture made out of water, sand and numerous chemicals to break underground rocks, removing much of the need for explosives or very powerful drilling machines.
The process is criticized by environmental activists around the world for the pollution and health issues it causes, as the chemicals used could easily disperse into the atmosphere and groundwater, making it an ecologic danger and a possible health hazard for nearby communities. 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 U.K. Department of Health – have pointed out the dangers of hydraulic fracturing.
Image Source: common dreams