Health Risks from Fracking Outlined; Two Scientists Tasked with Explaining the Potential Health and Environmental Risks of Hydraulic- Fracture Drilling Were Upfront with a Group of Murrysville Residents: The Science Is Still Evolving and the Available Data Are Far from Conclusive. [Derived Headline]

By Varine, Patrick | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 28, 2016 | Go to article overview

Health Risks from Fracking Outlined; Two Scientists Tasked with Explaining the Potential Health and Environmental Risks of Hydraulic- Fracture Drilling Were Upfront with a Group of Murrysville Residents: The Science Is Still Evolving and the Available Data Are Far from Conclusive. [Derived Headline]


Varine, Patrick, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Two scientists tasked with explaining the potential health and environmental risks of hydraulic-fracture drilling were upfront with a group of Murrysville residents: the science is still evolving and the available data are far from conclusive.

"Lawmakers want scientists to draw a clear, bright line," said Michael McCawley, an occupational and environmental health sciences professor at West Virginia University. "Any scientist worth his salt is going to run in the opposite direction from that. In science, the best we get is usually sort of a gray, fuzzy line, and often we're even uncomfortable with that."

McCawley, along with Dr. Marsha Haley, a UPMC CancerCenter oncologist, spoke at Murrysville council's third fracking education session.

The meetings have featured members of the state's environmental protection department and local drillers, all discussing aspects of the unconventional drilling process.

Council is in the process of developing an ordinance with local regulations for fracking.

While the paper McCawley and Haley helped co-author suggested existing setbacks "may not be sufficient to reduce potential threats to human health in areas where hydraulic fracturing occurs," both acknowledged that it's difficult to draw definitive conclusions from the data.

"As far as long-term data, we don't have that," Haley said when asked about the limitations of the research presented in the paper. "As an oncologist, (I'm) concerned about carcinogens associated with the process. We're not at the point where we'd see latent cancers from exposures.

"It's difficult to show causation versus association, so we see a correlation between well density and well proximity with adverse health outcomes, but it's difficult to point a finger and say, 'This is exactly what caused it.' We're seeing a preponderance of evidence that there's a correlation. But as for direct causation, we're not at that point with the science yet," she said.

McCawley was commissioned by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection in 2013 to study air samples at seven fracking sites in the state, which has a 625-foot mandated setback, 125 feet beyond Pennsylvania's 500-foot mark. …

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Health Risks from Fracking Outlined; Two Scientists Tasked with Explaining the Potential Health and Environmental Risks of Hydraulic- Fracture Drilling Were Upfront with a Group of Murrysville Residents: The Science Is Still Evolving and the Available Data Are Far from Conclusive. [Derived Headline]
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