Pennsylvania

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Health Project Finds Air Pollution Could Pose More Threat Than Water Contamination

A natural gas compressor station in Washington County.

Susan Phillips / StateImpactPA

A natural gas compressor station in Washington County.

A nonprofit health project examining the long-term impacts of natural gas drilling in Washington County has released preliminary findings that shows air pollution may be more damaging than water pollution, according to the Associated Press.

Since February 2012, the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project has gathered information from residents who believe their health has been affected by nearby drilling activity or natural gas processing.

The Associated Press details some of the study’s main findings:

The project found 27 cases where people in Washington County believe they were hurt by nearby drilling — seven cases of skin rashes, four of eye irritation, 13 of breathing problems and three of headaches and dizziness. The skin exposures were from water, and the other cases were from air. The numbers don’t represent a full survey of the area, just cases so far with plausible exposures.

The EHP group is trying to help those who have been exposed to drilling-related air or water pollution, toxicologist David Brown said, adding that they’re finding “an array of symptoms” in some people who live close to either wells or processing stations.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection recently cited a Washington County compressor station for emitting black smoke for two days in mid-July which caused several residents to complain.

However, there are experts who argue that natural gas is a public health improvement compared to burning coal and produces fewer emissions.

“There’s a strong case that people in the U.S. are already leading longer lives as a consequence of the fracking revolution,” said Michael Greenstone, a professor of environmental economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology told the Associated Press.

The industry group the Marcellus Shale Coalition has maintained that natural gas has helped improve air quality for Pennsylvanians.

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