Along with the potential of hazardous chemicals draining into rivers and lakes and entering the local water supply, studies are now showing that the effects of fracking may cause asthma symptoms to worsen or intensify.
Fracking has become a very popular process in recent times. It is achieved by oil companies pumping water, sand and chemicals deep into the ground at high pressure to extract pockets of natural gas that are hard to reach by other means. It is very controversial due to potential environmental and health dangers, and the overall uncertainty about this fairly new process that involves highly toxic chemicals.
The study was conducted by Dr. Brian Schwartz from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore and a team of researchers. The data for the study was taken by Schwartz and his team from digital records from over 35,000 patients at Pennsylvania’s Geisinger Clinic between 2005 and 2012. A very large amount of fracking sites and natural gas wells were created in the area over these years. Looking at asthma exacerbations in patients during four stages of natural gas production, the numbers showed that there were increased allergy prescriptions given, increased emergency room visits, and increased hospitalizations for asthma patients during the studied time span. The report states that severe asthma attacks were 1.5 times more likely and moderate attacks were 4 time more likely.
There are many individual effects of fracking which seem to have a direct correlation to the worsening of asthma, but Schwartz states that pollution and the stress of a changing environment seem to be the most impactful. As the study has not proved this correlation as fact, the findings show a definite association.
Of course there is backlash about the study from energy industry leaders, who say there are flaws in how the study was conducted. As this study helps with our understanding of the effects of fracking and asthma symptoms, suggestions have been made that it would be beneficial for researchers to further study patients who are living near to producing oil and gas wells.