A new peer-reviewed study funded by ANGA, America’s Natural Gas Alliance, was released last week with this conclusion:
This study offers comfort concerning health effects of HF on childhood cancers
A popping headline that was tweeted with much fanfare by Energy In Depth’s Steve Everley. But there are many problems with this study and you can read about those in the study’s limitations.
Here are a few of my observations.
That fracking is not like this fracking
First, this study is not relevant because their data range covers oil and gas activity in Pennsylvania before this fracking–unconventional, horizontal high pressure high volume slick water hydraulic fracturing–was well advanced in the area.
our analysis was limited to those wells drilled between 1990 and 2009, the dates for which the cancer data are also available
The study was conducted in Pennsylvania and used Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s data which is difficult to wade through. Thankfully we have FracTracker data to show how irrelevant this study is to what is happening today in backyards and communities.
FracTracker data shows that Marcellus wells in Pennsylvania did not start significant expansion until near the end date of this study. There were only 6 Marcellus wells drilled in all of 2005, the year Congress passed the Halliburton Loophole. The next two years combined saw less than 150 Marcellus wells drilled. The year the study concludes, 2009, 807 wells were drilled in the Marcellus.
The data on FracTracker does not note whether these wells were this fracking–unconventional, horizontal high pressure high volume slick water hydraulic fracturing–or that fracking–conventional. Since this fracking is fairly new and not at all like that fracking, it’s way to early to draw such a conclusion.
Location, location, location
No mapping was done with this study to show proximity of children to fracking wells. Where children live in relation to fracking activity is an important factor as Earthworks noted in Gas Patch Roulette.
- Those living closer to gas facilities report higher rates of impaired health.
- Children living near gas development reported negative health impacts that seem atypical in the young.
- Chemicals detected by air and water sampling have been associated by state and federal agencies with both oil and gas development and with many of the health symptoms reported in the surveys.
Science for hire
The study was funded by ANGA. The Union of Concerned Scientists are Pushing Back Against Corporate “Counterfeit Science.”
Over the Line
There’s no doubt that a good deal of scientific research, especially in today’s tight economy, is underwritten by corporate funding. That alone is not the problem. At issue here is that bona fide scientific research demands a high degree of scientific integrity. People with serious conflicts of interest who have a financial stake or receive direct payments from a company have no business publishing in scientific journals without clear and full disclosure of the conflict, especially when the results pertain directly to an assessment of the safety of one of the company’s products. At worst, it smacks of nothing less than criminal fraud and should be treated as such.
I am not accusing the scientists who conducted this research of frackademia. I don’t have time to research that but maybe Dory will dig in. However, it does seem this research was conducted to produce results that would be pleasing to industry.
Conclusions: This study offers comfort concerning health effects of HF on childhood cancers
It’s been a long time since I was in school but I’m pretty sure I remember that when numbers go up it’s an increase.
The total number of cancers observed was close to expected both before drilling began (SIR = 0.94; 95% CI, 0.90 to 0.99) and after drilling (SIR = 1.02; 95% CI, 0.98 to 1.07) for counties with oil and natural gas wells.
People who live in the fracking zone of sacrifice need science to catch up! We know what’s going on and waiting on you guys is killing us!
Limitations of this blog post
I’m not a scientist and I’m in a big hurry.