Home > Shale Hype > Guilt by association not enough to discredit new study showing links between asthma and fracking

Guilt by association not enough to discredit new study showing links between asthma and fracking

July 22, 2016


Earlier this week, findings of an important new study were published in JAMA Internal Medicine showing that risk of asthma attacks was more likely for people in Pennsylvania who lived closer to shale gas (“fracked”) wells.

According to a release by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health:

Those who lived closer to a large number or bigger active natural gas wells were significantly more likely — 1.5 to four times more likely — to suffer asthma attacks. And while these asthma attacks were likely to occur more frequently around wells throughout the four phases of the development process, the researchers found that the increased risk was greater during the production phase, which can last many years.

Though the first study of its kind focused on linkages between fracking and asthma, it joins a growing body of peer-reviewed studies that have documented health effects from shale gas and tight oil drilling.

The study’s findings have received a good deal of media coverage, including on PBS NewsHour and CNN, and in USA Today, Reuters, and the Associated Press.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, oil and gas industry front groups like Energy in Depth grasped at whatever they could to try to discredit the findings, including study co-author Brian Schwartz’s relationship with Post Carbon Institute.

An industry spokesperson claimed that since “one of the authors is on the board of an anti-oil and gas organization, this methodology should be called into question,” while a writer for the Daily Caller (founded by Tucker Carlson, a libertarian conservative political pundit, and Neil Patel, past adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney) claimed that Schwartz worked for PCI. Both apparently couldn’t be bothered to do a little fact-checking. Schwartz is neither on the board of PCI nor a former employee.

As the study’s authors transparently state “Schwartz is a fellow of the Post Carbon Institute (PCI), serving as an informal advisor on climate, energy, and health issues. He receives no payment for this role. His research is entirely independent of PCI, and is not motivated, reviewed, or funded by PCI.”

While we believe in the importance of Schwartz’s work looking at the health impacts of oil and gas production and are proud to name him a Fellow, PCI had nothing to do with this study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the Degenstein Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars program, and the National Science Foundation Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship. For its part, Energy in Depth is a program of the Independent Petroleum Association of America.

Photo credit: bubutu/Shutterstock.com.