WVU Dean Says We Need Study of Public Health Impacts of Fracking

by Dee Fulton on September 29, 2011

Dr. Alan Ducatman

The Intelligencer/Wheeling News Register: Dr. Alan Ducatman believes that there is a need for research focusing on identifying public health threats related to hydraulic fracking. Ducatman,  Chair of the WVU School of Community Medicine and interim Dean of the planned WVU School of Public Health, spoke at the program “Marcellus Shale Drilling: A Health Perspective” on Tuesday.   The program was hosted by the Ohio County Medical Society, OVMC and the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce.  Other speakers included Dr. William Mercer, Wheeling-Ohio County health officer; Lou Vargo, Wheeling-Ohio County Emergency Management Agency director; and lawyers Christopher Riley and Denise Pentino from the Dinsmore and Shohl firm.  The event was moderated by Robin Capehart, West Liberty University president.

“The industry should get out in front of these issues,” Ducatman said, referring to initiating health studies.  He stated that water and air should be tested before, during, and after fracking.

West Virginia finds itself at or near the bottom of most lists which rank the health of the citizenry of the states by factors such as rate of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and drug abuse.  Thus it is exciting that plans for a WVU School of Public Health were announced in January 2011.  Perhaps a portion of  drilling fees could be set aside to fund the costs of exploring the public health impacts of fracking and thereby also supporting educational jobs in the new School of Public Health.  Who will fund the needed studies?

It would be wise to get ahead of the issues.  It is only in the last few years that the ugly facts about the toll of coal on the state and the health of its citizens have emerged through studies.  A May 2011 WVU study documented more health problems in residents near Mountaintop removal sites.  In February 2011, I reviewed studies that documented how coal industry costs were shifted to the public in this blog post. Let’s not make the same mistakes with this extractive industry and allow the industry to “externalize” its costs onto the public.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Bill Byrne September 29, 2011 at 8:43 am

Exactly right! This important industry proposes to hydro frac thousands of time in our region. Each frac uses millions gallons of water containing harmful chemical under great pressure, only 20% of which returns to the surface. Has anyone hypothesized about the long term effects of this process? I am not opposed to this industry but in it’s own hopefully enlightened self interest it needs to get out front and proactive on the research not just the PR


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