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A contingent from Pennsylvania participated in the March for a Clean Energy Revolution ahead of this summer's Democratic National Convention, calling for a national ban on fracking. (Photo: Pennsylvanians Against Fracking/facebook)

With New Study in Hand, Pennsylvanians Reiterate Call for Fracking Ban

Latest analysis specifically expresses concern about the potential link between childhood leukemia and oil and gas drilling

Deirdre Fulton

As yet another study links fracking to cancer-causing chemicals, Pennsylvanians opposed to oil and gas drilling in their state are reiterating their call for a statewide moratorium on the practice.

A new analysis from the Yale School of Public Health "confirms that numerous carcinogens involved in the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing have the potential to contaminate air and water in nearby communities," according to a press statement on Monday. 

The study, which lead author and assistant professor Nicole Deziel said "represents the most expansive review of carcinogenicity of hydraulic fracturing-related chemicals in the published literature," examined more than 1,000 chemicals that may be released into air or water as a result of fracking.

It found that the majority of those chemicals—more than 80 percent—lacked sufficient data on cancer-causing potential, "highlighting an important knowledge gap," according to the researchers. Of the 119 compounds for which sufficient data exists, 44 percent of the water pollutants and 60 percent of air pollutants were either confirmed or possible carcinogens, with 20 of those tied to increased risk for leukemia or lymphoma and therefore requiring further study.

The study specifically expresses concern about the potential link between childhood leukemia and oil and gas drilling, noting that the illness "may be an early indicator of exposure to environmental carcinogens due to the relatively short disease latency and vulnerability of the exposed population."

In Pennsylvania, where the fracking boom is changing the landscape of the northeastern and southwestern parts of the state, the study came as yet another wake-up call.

"Yale researchers just gave Governor [Tom] Wolf the perfect justification for a statewide moratorium on fracking, not that he's looking for one," the activist group Pennsylvanians Against Fracking said in a statement on Wednesday. "He has steadfastly ignored the mountain of peer reviewed studies that make a solid case for a halt to further drilling."

Indeed, recent research has linked fracking to severe fatigue and migraine headaches; low birth weights and other reproductive health consequences; and asthma, among other ills.

"When Governor Wolf was elected, 425 peer-reviewed studies had been done on fracking," Pennsylvanians Against Fracking said in its statement. "By the time he'd been in office six months, the number had jumped to 550. As of the most recent count in April by Physicians, Scientists, and Engineers for Healthy Energy, the number had topped 685."

Still, Wolf "has ignored them all," the group charged, calling on the governor to immediately "impose a statewide moratorium on fracking and direct state health officials to conduct the studies required to fully understand the risks posed by the carcinogenic chemicals listed by the researchers."

"If he does any less," the statement read, "he must be prepared to quantify for the public exactly how many children he is willing to sacrifice to cancer in order to enable the natural gas industry."

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