The impacts of unconventional gas drilling on public health is a frequent topic of this blog. It's a vital question – especially here in Pennsylvania, where the Governor and General Assembly failed the public by refusing to create a public health registry to study the health impacts of drilling. Since then, there have been revelations of official throttling of state health department employees when it comes to handling health complaints about gas drilling, followed by a weak attempt at face-saving.
The calls for intensive studies grow increasingly urgent. A health symptom survey conducted in Washington County, Pennsylvania has found an association between proximity to active gas wells and respiratory and skin irritations.
Proximity to Natural Gas Wells and Reported Health Status: Results of a Household Survey in Washington County, Pennsylvania discusses the results of a survey of 492 persons in 180 randomly selected households with ground-fed water wells in an area of active natural gas drilling in that county. It was published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, and found:
an increased frequency of reported symptoms over the past year in households in closer proximity to active gas wells compared to households farther from gas wells. This association was also seen for certain categories of symptoms, including skin conditions and upper respiratory symptoms...
The results of this study suggest that natural gas drilling activities could be associated with increased reports of dermal and upper respiratory symptoms in nearby communities and support the need for further research into health effects of natural gas extraction activities. Such research could include longitudinal assessment of the health of individuals living in proximity to natural gas drilling activities, medical confirmation of health conditions, and more precise assessment of contaminant exposures.
Clearly, as the researchers concluded, more study is needed. Urgently.