Earlier this year a study by Colorado School of Public Health scholars determined that people who reside within 500 feet of an oil and gas extraction site have a cancer risk eight times higher than the maximum lifetime risk established by the Environmental Protection Agency. Residents of towns located in the vicinity of fracking wells and other oil and gas facilities will likely develop cancer at rates above the ones observed for the general population.
Cancer clusters have been identified all over the U.S.; wherever there is a fracking site, there have been complaints about unusually high cancer rates, birth defects, and leukemia, to name only a few of the most salient public health concerns.
University of Texas-Austin researcher Rachael Rawlins recently linked air pollution from Barnett Shale developments to high cancer rates. Specifically, Rawlins studied the cancer cluster around the city of Flower Mound, Texas.
Of course, the state of Texas has denied the existence of a cancer cluster, but Rawlins found a link between the surge of childhood leukemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma cases in the area between 1997 and 2009 and fracking developments.
Maria Morandi, a professor at the University of Montana, co-authored the UT-Austin analysis. The research team looked more closely at data about carcinogenic emissions that had been previously analyzed by the state of Texas.
While the state-sponsored analysis didn’t confirm a link between fracking and childhood leukemia, it did establish, with a 99 percent certainty, that Flower Mound showed higher than average rates of breast cancer.
For Morandi and Montana, there is only a 5 percent certainty that the high cancer rate in Flower Mound is completely random and not linked to the extended fracking endeavors around the area.
Rawlins has told reporters that while the industry and the government tend to dismiss the concept of a link between cancer and fracking, “we are confident that we know what are safe levels of toxins and that we have identified chemicals of concern.”
Another 2018 study by the University of Missouri and University of Massachusetts scholars analyzed the effect of prenatal exposure to the chemicals used in fracking, on mice. The females who had been exposed before birth showed an increased risk of developing breast cancer as adults. The study concluded that “the mammary gland is sensitive to mixtures of chemicals used in UOG [unconventional oil and gas] production at exposure levels that are environmentally relevant.”
Finally, a study by the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University researchers analyzed hospitalization rates near fracking sites around Pennsylvania between 2007 and 2011.
The scientists found that residents living closest to fracking wells experienced 27 percent more hospitalizations in connection with heart conditions, as well as significantly higher hospitalization rates for cancer and neurological conditions than people living in non-fracking areas.
According to a spokesperson for the Union of Concerned Scientists' Center for Science and Democracy, we must start monitoring water, air, and soil quality around fracking sites 24/7, if we want to truly understand how hydraulic fracturing is affecting the health of Americans. The organization also believes energy companies should be met with more stringent requirements for disclosing the chemicals used and released during their operations.
In the light of the public health disaster in front of us, it is imperative that we establish clear toxic emissions monitoring requirements and controls. As of today, unconventional oil and gas companies can get away with releasing a host of toxic, radioactive, and carcinogenic substances into the air, soil, and water with very little monitoring.
As long as this continues, cancer will continue to spread, and men, women, and children will continue to suffer. Without prompt policy changes, the death toll of fracking will only rise.
Williams Attorneys is investigating potential claims on behalf of cancer victims and their families residing near fracking sites. If you or a loved one have been affected, we want to hear from you. Call us at 361.885.0184 or Connect Online.