Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Fracking concerns in rural (but metropolitan) Texas

This NPR story focused on the perceived health implications of fracking in tiny Dish, Texas.  Many Dish residents believe the fracking has caused negative health outcomes there, everything from deaths associated with cancer to nose bleeds.  But the sort of evidence that would convince the scientific community of a causal relation between the health events and fracking is slim.

Other fracking-intensive communities around the U.S. are having similar experiences, but in Dish in particular, one challenge to proving that fracking is causing the problems is another culprit for the poor air quality:  pollution from the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.  Dish is in Denton County, just 15 miles from Denton, and 35 miles north of Forth Worth.  Prevailing winds in the area mean that Dish gets more than its fair share of metroplex traffic emissions, and the combination of these with the chemical cocktail associated with fracking may be the culprit.  But the scientists concede that they just cannot know yet how serious--or not--the problem may be in Dish; they are "quick to caution that the problems with evidence from Dish do not show that gas drilling is safe for people who live near it."

This story is part of a series on NPR this week about the health other environmental consequences of fracking.  Two other stories are out of Pennsylvania.  One story involves a new state law that permits physicians to know what chemicals are used in natural gas fracking in order to inform how they treat patients who may be suffering medical consequences of exposure to such chemicals.  However, because details of the chemical cocktail used in fracking are protected by trade secret laws, the physicians may not tell anyone else, not even other physicians.  The other Pennsylvania story is about a study of medical records in northern Pennsylvania that may help answer questions about whether exposure to fracking is making people sick.  A fourth story, this one out of Colorado, is about a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientist, Gaby Petron, who is studying the amount of pollution produced by natural gas drilling.

Don't miss Matthew Fluharty's provocative post over at Art of the Rural, "What if All the Natural Gas in the United States was in Urban America?"

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