Sunday, May 13, 2012

Marcellus Drilling Affects Human Health - but no one's keeping track

A couple weeks ago AP reporter Kevin Begos reported that the Pennsylvania Department of Health had received fewer than 30 health complaints on drilling. This information resulted from a FOIL request, but in light of the fact that the DOH noted “several dozen” complaints in the first half of 2011, it makes little sense. Except maybe to point out that the system intended to protect public health is broken.

well just over the backyard fence; provided by T. Ruggiero
Upon closer investigation, AP has learned that the Dept. of Health isn’t following through on all drilling-related health complaints they’ve received. Furthermore, many people may not even be reporting health complaints because the DOH website doesn’t have a specific place for people to file such complaints. And, the agency has no current investigations regarding people who claim gas drilling has impacted their health.

The fact is this: drilling and production of gas is not healthy for children and other living things. People living in the Marcellus drilling fields are suffering ill health, and it’s not just the drilling; compressor stations and storage fields are contributing to health problems too. It’s not just groundwater and fracking – it’s the whole enchilada.

People are suffering from rashes, headaches, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, nosebleeds, sore throats, sinus congestion, blisters, skin lesions, respiratory distress, and hearing difficulties. They are suffering from vomiting, diarrhea, pain, elevated heart rate, hair loss, headaches, eye irritation, intestinal cancer, ruptured spleens, stomach cramps, loss of balance, slurred speech, memory loss, and tremors.

One 32-year old woman, living in a home 200 feet from a gas well, became comatose for three weeks. Her liver failed, her lungs filled with fluid.  Her heart valves had been encrusted by an unknown foreign body. When tested, her blood had 11 times the “maximum allowable” amount of barium, and that was two years after she had moved from the drill site. Recently her 12-year old daughter has been having balance problems, falling down while walking. 

So, how many people are we talking about?  In media reports alone, we’re looking at close to 90 Pennsylvania residents who have complained about health impacts related to drilling. There are more, for sure; people who can’t – or won’t – report illnesses because they may not see a link to industrial activities in their neighborhood. While asthma is related to pollution, the last asthma study PA completed was in 2009, for data collected before drilling really started.

Then there are things like heart attacks, also influenced by air pollution. A survey done in one Barnett Shale community revealed anecdotal evidence linking an increase in the rate of heart attacks with exposure to drilling emissions.

The lack of health complaints in PA does not mean that people aren’t suffering health impacts. It means that no one is collecting this vital public health data.


  1. The DEC has had a policy of discounting complaints for years -

    and that is on vertical wells . .

    Gas wells don't pollute = cigarettes don't kill

    When they did a one week "sting" of frack truck violations, they wrote over 1,000 citations