Emerging concern: Are Gas Patch residents at greater risk of heart attack?

Photo of Ft. Worth dirty air by Don Young

Photo of Ft. Worth dirty air by Don Young

A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association confirms that exposure to “air pollutants–in some cases for a single day–increases the chance” of heart attack.

Scientists now know that it is the heart rather than the lungs that is the most vulnerable part of the human body when it comes to air pollution.

“We know now that the mortality is mostly from cardiovascular causes,” Araujo said. “That’s something that has become more clear over the last seven years or so.”

Most of the pollutants used to calculate risk come from combustion of fossil fuels but the study also showed that gaseous pollutants, not just particulates,  are associated with deaths.

More study is needed to determine how and why air pollution causes heart attacks.

One major theory is it causes inflammation.

A survey done in one Barnett Shale community revealed an alarming trend: during emission events people with no prior history of heart problems had heart attacks caused by inflammation of the heart tissue. These cases are “anecdotal” but the one thing the four residents had in common prior to their heart attacks was exposure to drilling toxics during an emissions event.

One of the many questions left unanswered by the study, is a question I have asked repeatedly of scientists or anyone who will listen:

“What happens when people are exposed to multiple pollutants at the same time?”

The Argyle – Bartonville community did baseline testing before drilling was advanced in their area. Seven of the 84 chemicals TCEQ test for were detected. Follow up testing, on the lot where the high school band practices detected 65 of the 84 chemicals commonly tested for by TCEQ.

What is the increased risk to our children
when they go from breathing 7 chemicals
to breathing a cocktail of 65 different chemicals?

Can anyone answer that?


After a day when there were several emission events near his home, one teenage boy died in his sleep from a heart attack. His heart had inflammation. He had no history of heart problems.

In the same area, a healthy, athletic man in his 30s with no prior history of heart problems and no cholesterol problems had a heart attack after emission events near his home. His heart had inflammation. He survived.

A women  who also lives in that area tells her story in the comments.


About Sharon Wilson

Sharon Wilson is considered a leading citizen expert on the impacts of shale oil and gas extraction. She is the go-to person whether it’s top EPA officials from D.C., national and international news networks, or residents facing the shock of eminent domain and the devastating environmental effects of natural gas development in their backyards.


  1. Tad Ghost Hole says

    Wow. Did anyone see the DMN front page? Tried to scapegoat the increased health risks and moderate polution risk of living in Dallas-Fort Worth on just car exhuast and diesel fumes. So bogus.

    • GhostBlogger says

      If that’s true, stricter laws on auto air pollutants, like California & New York have, would be in order.

      • TXsharon says

        Our vehicles are already 90+% efficient. It is time for the oil and gas industry to do their fair share!

        • Anonymous says

          Right on TxSharon–auto pollution is peanuts compared to O&G and it’s many and varied sources, including pipeline leaks, gas plants, well sites, drilling emissions, compressor stations, etc.

  2. GhostBlogger says

    What about those chemicals found around fracking, that are harmful, but the TCEQ does not always monitor for, like CS2?

  3. Jim says

    This particular study found harmful effects to the heart associated with inhaling one or more of four pollutants: particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide.

  4. Tim Ruggiero says

    Ever notice how the natural gas industry is always deflecting blame on others? They always point the blame of every aspect on other industry or other sources, then go into great detail about what the ‘other guy’ is doing, and then ask why no one is getting upset about that. “It’s the cars on the road.” “Coal is much dirtier than gas”. “Agriculture/pesticide runoff”. “Run off from mining.”

    Then they go into this long diatribe about the fact that ‘new technology exists to reduce emissions, prevent leaks”, etc. Notice they don’t actually say they are using the technology, just that it exists.

    Then they go to JUSTIFY what they are doing as creating jobs, reducing our dependence on foreign oil, boosting the economy, etc., then transitioning into why solar and wind will never work or supply our needs.

    The part they don’t ever talk about is how much money they spend on not only lobbying to have their way, but fighting solar and wind, and making it much more difficult to obtain.

    I just saw a news article about a windfarm in Washington that is generating much more power than the demand, so they are having to shut it down for a period of time. Industry wasted no time in trying to make it seem that it was being shut down because it’s inefficient, costly and otherwise not working.

    Industry is like 2nd rate magicians- they have the sleight of hand trick down pat, but obviously still working on the pulling the rabbit out of the hat.

    • Jane says

      Tim, it is called the sinful nature of man. As we read the book of Genesis we find the first man, Adam, blaming the woman God gave him when he was found out. We can only hope that those in this industry will begin to take responsibility and own up to their own mistakes.

  5. says

    During the drilling, fracking, flowback, and completion phase of the Fulson well in Arlington, TX from December 2010-February 2011, many residents, myself included, were complaining of headaches and extreme fatigue and exhaustion. One neighbor’s doctor was baffled because fluid was discovered around her heart. Another neighbor reported that she had a headache that lasted for three weeks, and that prescription meds would not make it go away. That February, around the time they were getting that well into production, there were two known deaths on one street located less than 2,000 feet from that pad site. One was a three-year old boy and the other was a man of about 60. Since I lived through all of this, I know in my gut that drilling activity was the cause of these ill health effects, but to a court, it might appear anectodal. Unfortunately, big death clusters will have to occur before we can concretely prove all of this.

  6. says

    This is disturbing… I hope the CDC gets involved in this issue and studies relationship of industrial pollution with chronic cardio & pulmonary disease. Especially when heavy industry & drilling is sited near schools and residential areas.

  7. Tim Ruggiero says

    Getting th CDC involved would be wonderful. Maybe they can help shed some light on why the national asthma rate in children is about 7% while the Children of The Shale is 25%. Maybe they could also explain why more and more adults are being diagnosed with COPD, and yet, doctors are baffled. Take for example Wise County, TX. Population 60,000-has one of the worst air quality measurements in the state, only a step or two behind Harris County- 4 hours South, population is 5th highest in U.S. and more than 5 MILLION. How do we let Industry continue to blame automobile traffic for the rotten air in Wise County when it’s perfectly clear who is to blame…..

    • Tad Ghost Hole says

      Totally reminds me of those small towns and counties in western Wyoming like Pinedale which recorded a 124 parts per billion reading which is apparently worse than Los Angeles on its smoggiest day of the year. Certainly in Wyoming they cant explain it away with car exhaust.

  8. Jana DeGrand says

    I am almost 1 year out from my heart attack. I was 50, clear arteries, and no blockages when I was flown in for an emergency cath. I had a coronary spasm and was diagnosed with a “rare” condition called Prinzmetal’s angina. Apparently cigarette smoke and things like it can cause coronary spasms, which can partially to completely shut down your coronary artery, luckily, mine cleared. Interesting note Sharon, my doctor could not regulate my blood pressure at all in February 2011, changing meds 4 times, hmmm??? I am NE of Argyle Central & the Wright site.

  9. says

    Upsetting for me to read all of these comments. I am in Karnes City,TX. My family and I had been enjoying our life down FM 99 until Marathon Oil Co. arrived. We to have headaches,my doctor is still trying to control my BP, the dust is so heavy that we sometimes rinse our eyes out,the noise,trash,loss of privacy due to a road on our neighbor’s property that she ensured would run beside and behind our home causing us to continually be dusted, the burning gas towers, drilling,shaking of our home, my son gets nosebleeds from dry weather, now they come several times a week, we sneeze, our dogs sneeze, everyday becomes worse!!! We have 24/7 traffic noise and pollution. I wrote the company. Doubt if they’ll reply. We no longer wish to live here,inhaling their toxins,but are stuck here. My close neighbor is recovering from cancer and wishes to move,but his mother,recovering from a stroke, says she’s too old to move from her long time home. People like us are forced to deal with our lives being destroyed. Has anyone out there written and received a reply from Marathon?

    • says

      Up at the top of my website, click on the tab that says “contact me.” I can put you in touch with some people who feel the same way you do. I can help you get organized to fight back.


  1. […] DeGrand March 19, 2012 at 9:05 am Texas http://www.texassharon.com/2012/03/13/emerging-concern-are-gas-patch-residents-at-greater-risk-of-he…I am almost 1 year out from my heart attack. I was 50, clear arteries, and no blockages when I was […]