Asthma is more common in children and adults living near fracking locations in the United States. An 8-year-study in Pennsylvania found that exposure to the pollution and stress caused by fracking operations is to be blamed for the people’s asthma attacks.
Asthma Medications More Common
According to the study published this week in JAMA Internal Medicine, asthma medications were four times more common in people living near fracking operations throughout the country. Colorado, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Texas are some of the states that have fracking, the Associated Press listed (via the U.S. News & World Report).
The research found that there were more than 20,000 new oral steroid prescriptions for asthmatic people near fracking areas, around 5,000 hospitalizations due to asthma, and nearly 2,000 visits to the ER because of asthma attacks. Sara Rasmussen, the study’s lead author and a researcher at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, said pollution and stress associated with fracking operations could be blamed for these asthma attacks.
Those effects were stronger in people living about 12 miles away from fracking sites. The lowest asthma occurrences were for people residing around 40 miles away.
The researchers, however, stressed that the research didn’t prove that fracking directly gave these people asthma or worsened their conditions. The study didn’t mention as well if fracking’s effects are worse compared to the health risks of traditional gas drilling methods and other industrial operations.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, involves injecting high-pressure water, sand, and chemicals into rocks to release the oil and gas contained in them. U.S. states that carry out fracking operations saw increases in oil and gas production, though the process is often criticized for its harmful effects to the environment and potentially, in people’s health.
Potentially Harmful Effects Of Fracking
Exhaust, dust, and the noise from heavy trucks, compressors, and drilling rigs are some of fracking’s environmental effects. Environmentalists also said that carcinogenic materials could escape from the fracking operations and contaminate groundwater, which could then end up in people’s homes. Others are worried that fracking can cause tiny tremors in the earth, according to BBC.
People with asthma experience breathlessness, wheezing, chest tightness, and coughing at night or early in the morning. More than 22 million people in the U.S. have asthma, and almost 6 million of those are children, the National Institutes of Health indicated. Past studies found that air pollution — both man-made and natural — worsens asthma symptoms and other respiratory illnesses, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted.
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