Oil and Gas Drilling Causes Health Consequences

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By: Joe Minott, Clean Air Council Executive Director

Many studies show that air pollution caused by the oil and gas industry has adverse effects on health and wellness. But just how harmful is drilling to the well being of Pennsylvanians?

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University set out to answer this question and the results—while not entirely surprising—are quite disturbing.

The study released last week examined the link between drilling well density and healthcare use by zip code in three northeastern Pennsylvania counties. Findings indicated that hospitalizations for heart conditions, neurological illness, and other conditions were higher among people who live near unconventional gas and oil drilling sites than those living in non-drilling areas. In fact, residents living in areas with a well density greater than 0.79 wells per square kilometer were 27 percent more likely to require cardiology inpatient treatment than those living in areas without drilling.

Though preliminary data, the study essentially confirms the frightening reality that those living closest to active wells have a high likelihood of being hospitalized. In an interview with StateImpact Pennsylvania, study co-author Reynold Panettieri said, “[the findings] allow us to now really sharpen our eye as to what to look for in people who are living in and around the wells.” 

According to Penn Medicine, the findings also suggest that healthcare costs of hydraulic fracturing must be factored into the economic benefits of unconventional gas and oil drilling. This study is just the latest showing that there’s more than meets they eye when determining whether drilling is good for Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania’s leaders must find a balance between economic benefits and the health and well being of its citizens.


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