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Study of Pennsylvania Residents Shows Link Between Fracking and Migraines

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A new study published in the scientific journal Environmental Health Perspectives links fracking to health problems, including migraine headaches and fatigue. The study has important implications for residents living close to natural gas wells that use fracking, as the study shows that they were also at risk for certain health problems.

Study Links Proximity to Fracking to Risk of Migraines and Fatigue

For the study, researchers mailed a self-administered questionnaire to 23,700 adult patients of the Geisinger Clinic—a healthcare provider that covers 40 counties in north and central Pennsylvania—between April and October 2014. They identified respondents who were suffering from chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS), migraine headaches, and fatigue symptoms.

Information about the conditions were concluded to where the patients lived, as far as how close they were to gas wells, and the total depth and daily production of those wells. Out of the 23,700 patients surveyed, 7,785 responded with completed questionnaires.

Out of those respondents, 24 percent reported current CRS symptoms, 23 percent suffered from migraine headaches, and 25 percent had higher than normal levels of fatigue. The researchers compared these levels to where the residents lived and found that those living close to fracking operations, had:

  • nearly a 50 percent increased risk of suffering from CRS and migraines,
  • an 88 percent increased risk of suffering CRS and fatigue,
  • a 95 percent increased risk of suffering migraine plus fatigue,
  • an 84 percent increased risk of suffering from all three.

Fracking Linked with Other Health Problems in Previous Studies

In a press release about the study, Johns Hopkins researchers stated their findings “add to a growing body of evidence linking the fracking industry to health problems.” Though they could not associate any single health condition with living near these active wells, they did find that those people who lived near the larger wells were more likely to suffer from two or more of the studied conditions.

 

“We don’t know specifically why people in close proximity to these larger wells are more likely to be sick,” said senior study author Brian S. Schwartz, a professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the Bloomberg School. “We need to find a way to better understand that correlation and, hopefully, do something to protect the health of these people.”

 

Previous research by the same scientists has linked fracking with other health concerns, including asthma attacks, premature births, and indoor radon.

 

Fracking Associated with Chemicals and Noise Pollution

Why would fracking cause issues such as headaches and fatigue?

 

Researchers still aren’t sure. They have some theories, though. For one, fracking wells create air pollution, which could be the cause of respiratory symptoms. Large wells also involve heavy truck traffic, odors, noise, and bright lights, which could contribute to migraine symptoms.

 

More than 9,000 fracking wells have been drilled in Pennsylvania in the last decade, with the industry expanding in other states as well, including Colorado, North Dakota, Wyoming, West Virginia, and Ohio. New York has already banned fracking.