Fracking – Activate Asthma Flare-ups
According to a US study, the contentious method of mining natural gas known as fracking could activate asthma flare-ups. Doctors from Pennsylvania have found that the asthma of patients was difficult to control if they tend to live near a fracking site when compared with the other asthma patients. However, the finding in over 25,000 patients does not seem to be proof of a contributory effect.
Authors have stated in the journal JAMA that more safety studies is essential. Fracking or hydraulic fracturing comprises of drilling down miles underground and then blasting the shale rock with great pressure water mixture in order to release the natural gas which could be trapped within.
Supporters state that it has the capabilities of being greener with regards to carbon footprint than some of the other energy sources. Critics are apprehensive regarding the effect on humans as well as the planet, particularly air and water pollution, earth tremors together with possible health risks. Public Health England had been looking into the issue in the UK and are of the belief that the risks to public health from the point of exposure to emissions from shale gas extraction seems low if operations tend to run properly and are regulated.
Impact of Fracking on Population
The US has already progressed with fracking and is now a big industry. However, the UK seems to be cautious and has stopped its search after a couple of small earthquakes in the vicinity of the test drilling site in the Blackpool area.
Financed by the National Institutes of Health, US researchers set out to research the impact of fracking on the population of Pennsylvania a state that had seen over 6,000 shale gas wells drilled in the last decade. Utilising local electronic health records they had recognised asthma patients and checked whether fracking action could have been linked to disease outbreaks over a period of six years.
The outbreak had been defined as mild when the patient had to be prescribed with steroid inhaler, moderate if they were needed to be taken to the emergency department and serious if they had to be hospitalised for their condition. The researcher of Johns Hopkins observed the distance that the patient lived from an active fracking site together with the other risk factors like if they seemed to live by a busy road.
More Research to Explore Theory
Patients with asthma in regions having the highest fracking movement, based on distance, size and activity of the shale gas sites in the area seemed to have higher risk of asthma outbreaks when compared with asthma patients living in areas with low fracking movements.
The odds of an outbreak was around 1.5 to 4 times greater, however the researcher were unable to know the reason why. They were of the belief that air pollution from the shale site as well as the heavy vehicles essential in building and servicing these facilities could be at fault though they had no proof regarding the same. Sara Rasmussen, a researcher has stated that they need more research now to explore this theory and another probable pathway could be stress.
Asthma can be aggravated by stress and Sara states that people living in the communities they seemed to have studied would have to cope with disturbance as the shale gas sites were built. And here again it is still not clear if the same had any impact.