An 8-year study in Pennsylvania revealed that fracking could worsen asthma attacks in children and adults who live close by the wells where this method is used. Fracking or hydraulic fracturing injects water, sand, and chemicals into the soil to crack the bedrock and extract oil and gas.
The study found that people who live closer to active fracking areas, with bigger wells, are more exposed to asthma attacks than those living far away.The study did not find a direct link between fracking and the worsening of asthma.
Sara Rasmussen, the lead author of the study, believes that stress and pollution caused by the noise from fracking may explain the result. The authors also emphasized that the study cannot prove what caused these symptoms in the first place.
Over 25 million US children and adults have asthma. This disease narrows air passages in the lungs. Some of the symptoms are wheezing, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing. They sometimes flare up from exposure to dust, stress or air pollution.
So far, research has found a lot of air pollution in areas where there is oil and gas drilling. Industry groups believe that the samples taken by Pennsylvania authorities near fracking operations did not find harmful pollutant levels, so these could not cause the health issues.
The new study was published in the Journal of Internal Medicine (JAMA). Experts noticed that between 2005 and 2012 there were over 6,200 fracking wells drilled in Pennsylvania.
Over the course of the study, more than 20,000 new oral steroids were ordered, 5,000 asthma hospitalizations took place, and there were about 2,000 visits to the ER-linked to asthma.
These outcomes were almost four times more common in asthma patients who lived closer to areas with bigger and active wells, than among those living far away.
Dr. Norman Edelman, senior adviser to the American Lung Association, believes that the study is “interesting and provocative.” However, it did not show an association between fracking and asthma, at least not a “cause and effect” association. This is why more research needs to be done.
Other factors which may aggravate asthma are noise, sleep disruption, stress, and occupation. More specific measurements of air pollution levels near fracking facilities need to be done, before a final verdict.
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