New Public Health Project Opens to Assist Shale Pollution Victims in Southwestern Pennsylvania

by Duane Nichols on February 24, 2012

The Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project is a non-profit that has opened in Washington County, PA. This project is in response to growing concerns over the potential health effects from hazardous pollutant releases associated with Marcellus shale gas development. It is funded by the Heinz Endowments, the Pittsburgh Foundation and the Claneil Foundation. Per the Don Hopey story in the  Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

The office will help area residents recognize and understand exposure pathways in the air and water, and schedule medical exams and evaluations to diagnose health problems that may result from them, said Raina Rippel, project director. An on-site Washington County nurse practitioner is available by appointment for home visits, exams and consultations, and already has conducted several patient assessments.

“I’ve been out there in the communities, listening to residents. We know there are public health impacts, but there is uncertainty,” Ms. Rippel said. “Our goal is to help individuals — help them navigate the health care systems, help them get the answers to the health care questions they have and put them in contact with the resources they need, whether that’s water testing or filtration or medical services.”

Washington County has the most Marcellus wells (about 700), more than any other county in southwestern Pennsylvania, and at least a dozen compressor stations. Impacts include stomach aches and headaches, nosebleeds and cognitive difficulties, as well as stress-related disorders, said Dr. Leslie Walleigh, a project consultant and a physician specializing in occupational and environmental medicine.

“We would expect, based on predictable exposures, that some individuals will experience respiratory symptoms, with worsening of underlying asthma and other lung diseases, and possibly the new onset of asthma,” Dr. Walleigh said. “We also expect to see conditions related to the emotional and psychological stress resulting from the personal, family and community life disruption stemming from the shale gas activities.”

This new program will be the first to study the health impacts from shale gas development in any comprehensive and methodical way, said David Brown, a public health toxicologist in Connecticut and director of Public Health Toxicology for Environment and Human Health Inc., which helped design the program.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Francesca February 26, 2012 at 1:16 pm

Stop fracking


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