New research paper on health impacts near natural gas drilling for humans and animals; U.S. Senate encourages more data; new ozone testing

Last week I mentioned a new peer-reviewed paper on the "Impacts of Gas Drilling on Human and Animal Health." It has now been posted on the web. This groundbreaking article details 24 cases of animal and owner health problems with potential links to natural gas extraction operations in six states. The authors interviewed veterinarians and analyzed soil, air, water, and medical test results. Among their findings: exposure came from many sources, including hydraulic fracturing fluid spill, drilling fluid spill, stormwater run-off, leaking pit, wastewater dumped on property, wastewater dumped into creek, contaminated water, pipeline leak, compressor station malfunction, and flaring of well. The natural gas production process involves many stages and pieces of equipment, and they all pose threats to the environment. The health impacts discussed include reproductive, neurological, urological, gastrointestinal, dermatological, upper respiratory, burning of eyes, headache, and sudden death. I am going to paste one excerpt here to illustrate how disturbing and important this paper is, and then recommend that you read all 22 pages yourself:

"The most commonly reported symptoms were associated with reproduction. Cattle that have been exposed to wastewater (flowback and/or produced water) or affected well or pond water may have trouble breeding. When bred cows were likewise exposed, farmers reported an increased incidence of stillborn calves with and without congenital abnormalities (cleft palate, white and blue eyes). In each case, farmers reported that in previous years stillborn calves were rare (fewer than one per year). In most cases where diagnostics were pursued, no final diagnosis was made; in other cases, acute liver or kidney failure was most commonly found. Of the seven cattle farms studied in the most detail, 50 percent of the herd, on average, was affected by death and failure of survivors to breed."

On a related matter, this is somewhat dated news but I thought it still important: in the U.S. Senate report on annual appropriations for the Health and Human Services Department (issued in September), the Senate encouraged the Centers for Disease Control to develop a wide variety of baseline community health data that will be tracked over time and will allow communities to monitor the impact of current and future natural gas drilling sites on the health of individuals living nearby. Thanks to Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey for championing this cause. Can anyone honestly disagree with the need for more scientific research data on the health and environmental impacts of living near natural gas production sites?

I was glad to see that a large study is about to begin in Utah regarding high ozone levels. It is eye-opening to see that $5.5 million dollars are being spent to study ozone in Utah alone. Wow. what about the many other dangerous air pollutants stemming from natural gas pollutants?  Thanks to the funders: Uintah Impact Mitigation special service district, Western Energy Alliance, Bureau of Land Management’s Utah Office, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency , and in-kind equipment contributions from the state of Utah, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and University of Colorado at Boulder. We hope this is a solid scientific study that leads to useful conclusions.

The Pennsylvania Clean Air Council (CAC) reports that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) is planning to place an ozone monitor in Bradford County near Marcellus Shale operations due to the lack of rural monitors. One is not enough, but it is a start. CAC also reports that PA DEP is currently preparing a Marcellus Shale long-term comprehensive air sampling report, which it says is imperative to determine the extent of the emissions to which Pennsylvania citizens are exposed.