Pennsylvania To Fund Research Into Hydraulic Fracturing Health Dangers

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said on 22 November that his administration will spend $3 million on a pair of studies to explore the potential health effects of the natural gas industry, taking action after months of impassioned pleas by the families of pediatric cancer patients who live in the most heavily drilled region of the state.

Dozens of children and young adults have been diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma and other forms of cancer in a four-county area outside Pittsburgh, where energy companies have drilled more than 3,500 wells since 2008.

Ewing has no known environmental cause, and gas industry officials say there is no evidence linking pediatric cancer to drilling. But the families nevertheless suspect that drilling and hydraulic fracturing, the method that energy companies use to extract natural gas from shale rock, played a role. They have been pressing the Wolf administration for an investigation into any possible link between this extremely rare form of bone cancer and shale gas development—and confronted Wolf himself at the Capitol on 18 November.

“I want to thank the families that have shared their heartbreaking stories,” the Democratic governor said in a statement. “I understand and support the concerns of parents and desire of community members to learn more about the possible reasons for these cancer cases.”

The research, he said, is meant to address “the concern that there is a relationship between hydraulic fracturing and childhood cancers.”

One study will use existing research that linked natural gas activity to medical conditions such as asthma and, applying the same methodology, try to replicate those earlier findings in the population in southwestern Pennsylvania.

The other study will focus specifically on rare childhood cancers, including Ewing sarcoma, with researchers looking at whether these young cancer patients were exposed to hydraulic fracturing more often than a control population.

Read the full story here.

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