Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Environmental Health Project Finds Results ‘Very Concerning’ From University Of Pittsburgh Studies Showing Links Between Natural Gas Development And Lymphoma Cancer, Worsening Asthma Conditions, Lower Birth Weights

On September 13, the Pittsburgh-based
Environmental Health Project issued a review of the University of Pittsburgh studies released on August 15 showing links between natural gas development and Lymphoma cancer, worsening asthma conditions and lower birth weights.

"We at the Environmental Health Project have now had a chance to do an objective analysis of the Pennsylvania Health & Environment Studies conducted by the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health and recently released to the public. 

"The studies looked at the health impacts from shale gas development (fracking) in an eight-county region and found some very concerning issues.

"Our 10+ years of experience in studying this issue has led us to release a public statement regarding the studies and to make a number of common sense recommendations for how governments can better defend public health."

The statement from Alison L. Steele, Executive Director, Environmental Health Project, follows--

Study Overview

We at the Environmental Health Project are not surprised that these new studies reveal significant correlations between shale gas development and health issues. 

The results of the studies complement those of other studies and reinforce the scientific consensus that shale gas development is unsafe, especially for vulnerable populations like children, the elderly, pregnant individuals, and those with existing health conditions.

The asthma study is especially concerning because it shows that asthmatics living close to these sites are 4 to 5 times more likely to develop severe asthma symptoms or to require emergency department visits and hospitalizations. 

These significant respiratory health impacts can occur up to 10 miles from well sites during the production phase of extraction—the longest phase of shale gas development—which can go on for a decade or more.

The lymphoma study, which found that children living within one mile of one or more wells were 5 to 7 times more likely to develop this relatively rare form of cancer, is also very concerning. 

Because most forms of cancer have long latency periods, we could expect to see more diagnoses of lymphoma and other cancers going forward.

The birth outcomes study, which found that infants born to pregnant individuals who lived near wells during the production phase were 20-40 grams (about one ounce) smaller at birth, is concerning and adds to the body of research from a number of other birth outcomes studies that show a range of adverse health impacts for pregnant individuals and infants

Other Studies & Health Impacts

In addition to these new studies, more than two dozen other epidemiological studies show a correlation between shale gas development and health impacts for residents living nearby. 

Hundreds of other investigations and first-hand accounts have shown that shale gas development correlates with poor health outcomes for people living in proximity to such infrastructure.

Approximately 1.5 million Pennsylvanians live within a half mile of oil and gas wells. 

Health impacts from living in proximity to shale gas development include a higher risk of--

-- A range of respiratory problems like asthma, chronic bronchitis, and reduced lung function

-- Skin and eye irritation, as well as other symptoms like headaches, dizziness, and nausea

-- Hospitalization from heart-related complications

-- Cancer, particularly in those who are exposed over a long period of time

-- Adverse health effects for pregnant individuals, including preterm birth, low birth weight, and birth defects in infants

-- Mental health issues from noise, vibration, and light pollution and the associated stress of shale gas industry activity.

Shale gas development poses other health impacts for every other resident, in Pennsylvania and worldwide. 

Methane, the primary component of shale gas, is responsible for more than 25 percent of the climate warming we are experiencing today. 

Climate change has serious health consequences through increases in damaging storms, heat waves, floods, fires, and insect-borne diseases. 

Government Inaction

EHP has closely examined the actions of Pennsylvania’s governing bodies over more than a decade and identified a series of egregious and, at times, intentional efforts to undermine public health in the face of shale gas development. 

These efforts are discussed in detail in our 2022 white paper, Pennsylvania's Shale Gas Boom: How Policy Decisions Failed to Protect Public Health and What We Can Do to Correct It.

To date, the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) and other government bodies have failed to respond in a meaningful way to the health harms associated with shale gas development. 

The General Assembly has underfunded state agencies, such as the DOH and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), that can help to protect the public from health harms related to shale gas development.

Pennsylvania’s governing bodies have allowed communities to be excluded from making decisions about the permitting and siting of shale gas infrastructure. 

Over the years, information about health harms has been withheld from residents, and communication with communities has been sparse or nonexistent.

While researchers should continue to study and monitor the impacts of shale gas development, relying on more studies alone will only delay the health protections residents need.

A reasonable public health approach should be based on a rapid and transparent response. 

We already have all the evidence we need to take action to minimize further health impacts.

What Should Be Done Next

Given the findings of the Pennsylvania Health and Environment Studies, in addition to the dozens of other peer-reviewed, epidemiological studies that point to health harms in proximity to shale gas development, it is past time for the Pennsylvania legislature and Governor Shapiro to take swift action to protect the health of Pennsylvanians.

Appropriate measures include the following-- 

-- [Enact Grand Jury Report Recommendations] Governor Shapiro should publicly acknowledge the health harms associated with shale gas development and publicly commit to supporting—at a minimum—the recommendations put forth by the 43rd Statewide Grand Jury during his tenure as Attorney General.

-- [Increase Protective Buffers] Protective buffers (setbacks) in Pennsylvania should be expanded from the currently required 500 feet to EHP’s recommendations of 1 km (about 3,300 feet or 0.6 miles) for small facilities and 2 km (about 6,600 feet or 1.25 miles) from large facilities, schools, nursing homes, and other structures accommodating vulnerable populations. (Note that, based on findings from existing research, EHP’s recommendations are greater than those made in the Grand Jury report.) Additionally, the industry should not be allowed exemptions or waivers to these distances for any reason.

-- [Cumulative Air Quality Impacts] As part of its permitting process, the DEP should cumulatively analyze all sources of air pollution in a given area (aggregate emissions) to accurately assess air quality and to limit shale gas development in airsheds that are already burdened with pollution. See more specific recommendations regarding aggregate emissions here.

-- [Disclose Chemicals] The Pennsylvania legislature and agencies should hold industry accountable for leaking toxic pollution that harms residents and hastens climate change, including requiring shale gas operators to publicly disclose all chemicals used in drilling and hydraulic fracturing before they are used on-site, as recommended in the Grand Jury report.

-- [Close Regulatory Loopholes On Waste, Gathering Pipelines] The Pennsylvania legislature and agencies should ensure safer operations throughout the entire shale gas lifecycle. Such actions include closing hazardous waste loopholes and requiring safer transport of the contaminated waste created from fracking sites. Further, state agencies should be required to regulate gathering lines, used to transport shale gas hundreds of miles, presenting the opportunity for leaks, explosions, and other health risks throughout.

-- [Fully Fund Agencies] The General Assembly must fully fund agencies like the DOH and the DEP so that they can do their job of protecting Pennsylvania’s resources and the health of residents, including the following--

        -- [Health Response/Environmental Justice Protections] Pennsylvania agencies should conduct a comprehensive health response to the impacts of living near shale gas facilities, as described in the Grand Jury report. Specifically, that approach should include Health Impact Assessments and additional considerations for Environmental Justice communities before development of new facilities. Agencies further need to develop and distribute comprehensive resources, actionable guidance, and adequate response/investigations near existing facilities.

        -- [Hold Industry Accountable] The DEP must hold industry accountable for leaking toxic pollution that harms residents and hastens climate change, including requiring accurate and timely monitoring and reporting of regular emissions and emissions events, providing public access to collected data, and strictly enforcing rules and regulations with fines and other meaningful punitive consequences.

        -- [Ensure Voices Of Residents Are Heard] Governor Shapiro must call on the DOH and the DEP to work more closely and transparently with communities to provide potentially impacted residents with health-protective strategies to combat pollution and to ensure that the voices of residents, especially those experiencing environmental and health harms, are heard.

        -- [Health Impact Assessment] These agencies must work together and with federal agencies to conduct comprehensive health impact assessments on shale gas development in affected areas—particularly those with a high concentration of low income, minority, and other vulnerable populations—and make recommendations for more health-protective practices.

These actions must begin today.

Alison L. Steele, Executive Director, Environmental Health Project

Click Here for a copy of the statement + background on the University of Pittsburgh studies.

To learn more about health impacts of natural gas development, visit the Environmental Health Project website.

Resource Links:

-- EHP Fact Sheet: Health Risks To Children From Shale Gas Development

-- EHP Fact Sheet: Asthma And Shale Gas Development

-- EHP Fact Sheet: Shale Gas Development And Cancer

-- EHP Fact Sheet: Particulate Matter And Shale Gas Development

-- EHP Fact Sheet: Tips For Talking To Your Health Care Provider

-- Click Here for more information from the Environmental Health Project

NewsClips - Health Studies:

-- TribLive: Environmental Advocates Weight In On State Dept. Of Health, Pitt Study Of Natural Gas Development Health Impacts

-- Capital & Main - Audrey Carleton: PA Residents Call For Action After Pitt Study Links Natural Gas Development To Asthma, Childhood Lymphoma

-- PA Capital-Star: PA Residents Call For Action After Health Studies Link Natural Gas Development To Asthma, Lymphoma

-- The Center Square: Natural Gas Well Setbacks May Not Be Protective Enough After Health Impact Study Results 

-- Warren Times: Natural Gas Well Setbacks Questioned After Health Impact Studies

-- Bedford Gazette Editorial: Natural Gas Development is Making Pennsylvanians Sick, Lawmakers Must Act 

-- AP: Pennsylvania Study Suggests Links Between Shale Gas Wells And Asthma; Lymphoma In Children 

-- The Allegheny Front: Pitt Researchers Find Higher Risks For Lymphoma And Asthma For Those Living Near Shale Gas Development, But ‘No Association’ To Ewing Sarcoma Cancer 

-- Post-Gazette - Anya Litvak/Hanna Webster: ‘Is It Safe To Live Here?’: Questions Loom At Presentation Of Reports On Shale Gas Development And Health In Southwestern PA 

-- Observer-Reporter - Karen Mansfield: Pitt Study Shows Link Between Fracking, Increased Lymphoma, Asthma Reactions 

-- KDKA: PA Study Suggests Links Between Shale Gas Development And Asthma, Lymphoma In Children

-- NextPittsburgh: Natural Gas Development Raises Risks Of Asthma; Lymphoma In Children, Pitt Study Reveals 

-- Inquirer - Will Bunch: Does Anyone Care About The Study Linking PA Natural Gas Development To Cancer In Kids? 

-- TribLive Editorial: Studies Of Natural Gas Development Point To Health Costs

-- Bloomberg Column: Cancer In Kids Is Too High A Price For Cheap Natural Gas - By Mark Gongloff

-- Observer-Reporter: State, County Elected Leaders Take Proactive Steps To Ban Oil, Gas Wastewater Injection Wells

-- Inside Climate News - Jon Hurdle: Shale Gas Development Linked To Increases Cases Of Lymphoma In PA Children, Study Finds

-- The Hill: PA Research Suggests Link Between Natural Gas Development And Asthma, Childhood Lymphoma 

-- Pittsburgh Business Times: DEP Plans To Tighten Regulations On Natural Gas Drilling, Including Recommendations For 2020 Grand Jury Report

-- Observer-Reporter: Flaws In University Of Pittsburgh’s School Of Public Health’s Studies Of Natural Gas Development’s Impact On Public Health - By David Callahan, President & Lobbyist For Marcellus Shale Gas Industry

-- Delco Times: Chester Bankruptcy Receiver Warns Of Projects That Could Handcuff City Finances And Negatively Impact Residents’ Health On Heels Of  Hearing On Proposed LNG Natural Gas Export Project In The City  [PDF of article]

-- Forbes Survey Lists Best Employers By State: No Natural Gas Companies Are On The List Of Top 97 Companies In PA; Sheetz Is #20 

Related Articles - Health Studies:

-- University Of Pittsburgh School Of Public Health Studies Find Shale Gas Wells Can Make Asthma Worse; Children Have An Increased Chance Of Developing Lymphoma Cancer; Slightly Lower Birth Weights  [PaEN]

-- Between The Lines Podcast: Pediatrician Dr. Ned Ketyer Explains The Results Of New Studies Of The Health Impacts Of Natural Gas Development On Children And Adults  [PaEN]

-- State Dept. Of Health Apologizes For Not Listening To Communities Suffering Health Impacts From Shale Gas Development; New Health Study Results ‘Just The Tip Of The Iceberg’  [PaEN] 

-- State Dept. Of Health Invites Citizens To File Environmental Health Complaints Related To Natural Gas Development; Health Will Also Review Environmental Test Results  [PaEN] 

-- New State Health Plan Identifies Health Issues Related To Natural Resource Extraction, Climate Change In Top 5 Threats To Health Outcomes; No Update On University Of Pittsburgh Oil & Gas Health Impacts Study  [PaEN]

-- Post-Gazette Editorial: Who Pays For Natural Gas Development’s Harm?  Pennsylvania Should Acknowledge The Clear Fact That Fracking Has Hurt People, Specifically Children  [PaEN]

-- Republican Herald Editorial: Health Depends On Regulation Of Oil & Gas Development  [PaEN]

-- 150+ Residents Of Chester Opposed To An LNG Natural Gas Export Facility Proposed In Their Community Let Their Feelings Be Known To The House Philadelphia LNG Export Task Force  [PaEN]

-- Lawsuit Filed Against General Assembly, Governor Challenges Constitutionality Of Law Preventing DEP From Protecting Public Health, Environment From Harm Caused By Abandoning Conventional Oil & Gas Wells  [PaEN] 

PA Oil & Gas Industry Public Notice Dashboards:

-- Pennsylvania Oil & Gas Weekly Compliance Dashboard -  September 9 to 15;  First Abandoned Shale Gas Well Pad? Another Leaking Equitrans Storage Well; Plugging Grant Twp. Injection Well  [PaEN] 

-- PA Oil & Gas Industrial Facilities: Permit Notices/Opportunities To Comment - September 16  [PaEN] 

-- DEP Invites Comments On Section 401 Water Quality Certification For A Texas Eastern Natural Gas Pipeline Project Going Under The Schuylkill River In Chester, Montgomery Counties  [PaEN] 

-- DEP Posted 75 Pages Of Permit-Related Notices In Sept. 16 PA Bulletin  [PaEN]

NewsClips This Week:

-- Public Source: ‘It’s Just Too Close:’ People Living Near Natural Gas Drilling, Industrial Facilities Suffer As State And Local Governments Fail To Buffer Homes

-- Bedford Gazette Editorial: Natural Gas Development is Making Pennsylvanians Sick, Lawmakers Must Act 

-- The Derrick - Makayla Keating: Residents In Village Of Reno, Venango County Still Reporting Problems With Water Supply Contaminated By Conventional Oil Well Wastewater; Late Mayor Of Sugarcreek Boro Praised  [PDF of Article]

-- The Derrick - Makayla Keating: The Late Sugarcreek Boro Mayor Charlie McDaniel Praised For Leadership Responding To Village Of Reno Water Supply Emergency Caused By Conventional Oil Well Wastewater Spill  [PDF of article]

-- WTAE: Records Show Dozens Of Abandoned Natural Gas Wells In Plum Boro, Allegheny County

-- Williamsport Sun Editorial: Federal Oil, Gas Leases Create Jobs And Meet Needs For Affordable Energy  [Note: There are 5,000 to 7,000 abandoned conventional oil and gas wells in the Allegheny National Forest]

-- Inside Climate News: Ohio Oil, Gas Wastewater Injection Well Suspended Over ‘Imminent Danger’ To Drinking Water  [PA gas drillers use Ohio sites for disposal]

-- Warren Times: Warren County Leading Region In High Gasoline Prices

-- Bloomberg: Saudi Arabia’s Oil Squeeze Rekindles Talk Of $100 Oil

-- The Derrick: Oil Region National Heritage Area To Hold Oil Heritage Energy Security Conference Oct. 12-13 In Venango County [Some Events Invitation Only]  [PDF of article]

-- Post-Gazette: Top Work Places Survey In Pittsburgh Has EQT Natural Gas Drilling In First Place  [Check their DEP environmental compliance record here ]

-- LancasterOnline: Fracking Revenue Fund 12 Years Of Environmental Projects In Lancaster County

-- Bay Journal: Virginia Natural Gas Compressor Project Raises Environmental Justice Questions 

-- Financial Times: World At ‘Beginning Of End’ Of Fossil Fuel Era, Says Global Energy Agency [Demand For Oil, Natural Gas, Coal Will All Peak Before 2030]

-- Wall Street Journal: Demand For Oil, Natural Gas, Coal To Peak This Decade, IEA Chief Says 

Related Articles This Week:

-- Environmental Health Project Finds Results ‘Very Concerning’ From University Of Pittsburgh Studies Showing Links Between Natural Gas Development And Lymphoma Cancer, Worsening Asthma Conditions, Lower Birth Weights  [PaEN]

-- Oil & Gas Industry Spills, Releases Created Over 575 New Brownfield Sites So Far In Pennsylvania, With More Every Week  [PaEN]

-- Petro Erie, Inc. Says It Lacks The Financial Ability To Comply With DEP’s Order To Clean Up Conventional Oil Well Wastewater That Contaminated The Village Of Reno’s Water Supply In Venango County; Will Taxpayers Be Stuck With Cleanup Costs Again?  [PaEN] 

-- DEP Publishes Interim Final Environmental Justice Policy Changing Permit Review Process; Opens Comment Period Setting 9 Public Hearings  [PaEN] 

-- Oil Region National Heritage Area To Hold 2nd Oil Heritage Energy Security Conference Oct. 12-13 In Venango County  [PaEN]

-- PUC Urges Consumers To Shop For Natural Gas Supplies To Lock In Lower Gas Prices To Help Insulate Against Potential Energy Price Spikes  [PaEN]

[Posted: September 13, 2023]  PA Environment Digest

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