New Studies of Fracking and Childhood Cancer Authorized in Pennsylvania

by Diana Gooding on November 25, 2019

Could fracking be to blame for spike in childhood cancers ... (KDKA/CBS)

Pennsylvania To Spend $3M To Study Possible Link Between Fracking And Spike In Childhood Cancer

From an Article by KDKA News 2, CBS Network, November 22, 2019

HARRISBURG (KDKA/AP) — Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf says his administration will spend $3 million on a pair of studies to explore the potential health impacts of the natural gas industry.

Wolf is taking action after months of impassioned pleas by the families of pediatric cancer patients who live in the most heavily drilled region of the state.

Dozens of children and young adults have been diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma and other forms of cancer in a four-county area outside Pittsburgh.

Ewing has no known environmental cause, but the families have been pressing the Wolf administration for an investigation into any possible link between this extremely rare form of bone cancer and shale gas development.

Wolf says the research will address “the concern that there is a relationship between hydraulic fracturing and childhood cancers.”

The full statement of Gov. Tom Wolf reads as follows:

“I want to thank the families that have shared their heartbreaking stories. I understand and support the concerns of parents and desire of community members to learn more about the possible reasons for these cancer cases. Ewing Sarcoma is rare and currently has no known environmental cause, but it is imperative that we do all that we can to thoroughly research and advance the science on the health effects of oil and gas extraction.

“Secretary of Health Levine and her team, including the commonwealth’s top epidemiological experts, have done diligent work to explore possible avenues to look more closely at available science. To further their efforts, I am directing the Department of Health to undertake two research projects that will help to better understand the possible health effects related to the natural gas industry, in particular as they pertain to confirmed cases of Ewing Sarcoma and other childhood cancers in southwestern Pennsylvania.

“This investment will advance science by building upon previous research and investigating the concern that there is a relationship between hydraulic fracturing and childhood cancers. I believe this is a responsible way for the commonwealth to undertake additional research in this area.”

State Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine released this statement:

“It is essential to better understand the scientific evidence of public health issues related to hydraulic fracturing. These studies will provide us with a more in-depth understanding of this issue than we have been able to do with the resources at our disposal. I want to thank Gov. Wolf for his continued commitment to public health and finding solutions using the best data available.”

The news of the funding for the studies comes one day after a KDKA Investigation aired into whether there could be a link between fracking and a spike in childhood cancer.

Emotions are running high throughout the four-county area of Fayette, Greene, Washington and Westmoreland counties, and at a recent meeting in Canon-McMillan High School’s Auditorium.

With fewer than 250 cases of Ewing sarcoma recorded annually in the United States, parents and family members believe they are living in a cancer cluster and the shale gas industry is to blame.

A panel of public health experts couldn’t draw that connection. Citing a department study, a state Health Department director said that while the number of childhood cancers may seem high in the region, they are not out of line with the rest of the state and do not constitute a cluster.

Against the perception, the Health Department says over the 10-year time period, the number of cancers is not “statistically significant.”

A Ewing sarcoma doctor from UPMC indicated that the cancer is primarily genetic in nature and mostly related to family history, but while current research does not show a link to environmental causes, retired pediatrician Dr. Ned Ketyer does not find that persuasive.

“The fact that there is no known environmental factor associated with the development of Ewing Sarcoma does not mean there is no environmental factor in the development of Ewing Sarcoma,” Dr. Ketyer said. “It just hasn’t been studied. The cancer is very rare.”

If environment is a factor, you could cite several other potential health threats. The region has long hosted the coal industry, industrial farming chemicals, and even an abandoned uranium disposal site.

However, environmental advocates say the spike in these cancers matches the decade-long rise of fracking and shale gas drilling.

“We’ve been living with that uranium depot for decades, we’ve been living with these chemicals. There’s one thing that’s new, there’s one thing that’s different and that’s fracked gas,” he said.

(TM and © Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Lou Pochet February 7, 2020 at 2:04 pm

Letter to the editor: Gas industry/cancer study applauded

From Lou Pochet to Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 6, 2020

We should all be pleased that Gov. Tom Wolf has allocated public money, namely $3 million, to study gas industry effects and cancer, especially child cancers in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

As a chemist, I can only imagine how complex it will be to study multiple possible effects of a controversial heavy industry like shale gas development.

For such a study, it is critical to include an advisory/review group composed of citizens in the affected counties as well as scientists.

Citizen participation is critical to ensure that those in the community feel their voices are heard and can increase the likelihood of open doors when the needed samples are collected.

This advisory board should be included in the review of projects to be undertaken and ways the public can stay informed of work in progress.

Members of this board may also be effective educators in explaining to the public the rationale behind the decisions made.

This is about our tax dollars and the health of our kids. Everyone deserves to know how public money is spent and how to protect our kids from pollution.

Lou Pochet, Hempfield, PA

Sent from my iPad


Kristina Marusic January 16, 2021 at 12:04 am

LISTEN: Kristina Marusic discusses the health effects of fracking on “In This Climate”

From the Environmental Health News, January 12, 2021

EHN’s Pittsburgh reporter Kristina Marusic recently appeared on the podcast In This Climate to discuss the impacts of fracking in southwestern Pennsylvania and beyond.

She shared the story of a community in Braddock, Pennsylvania, that’s been fighting to stop a fracking well from being drilled on the property of a U.S. Steel mill. After recounting a heated community meeting where residents heckled and shouted at representatives from the fracking company, she explained why people in similar communities are so concerned about having fracking wells nearby.

Marusic discussed studies she’s reported on for EHN that found fracking chemicals have built up in the shells of freshwater mussels, caused rare birth defects in horses, and have been linked to numerous health harms in humans.

“Fracking has been linked to a range of health effects in more than a thousand studies including low birth weights, asthma, migraines, heart problems and birth defects,” Marusic explained. “People in communities with fracking are fearful about the exposures they’re facing from the industry.”

In This Climate is a weekly podcast out of The Media School and the Environmental Resilience Institute at Indiana University that covers weather, wildlife, human resilience, and the ever-changing environment. Marusic helped kick off the podcast’s series on fracking.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: