Pennsylvania Records Shed Light on Shale-Related Health Concerns – June 24, 2015
Laura Legere from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the PA Department of Health kept a log of 86 reports of health complaints related to natural gas development between 2011 and 2015. This reveals both the array of concerns reported by residents and doctors and the limits of the agency’s efforts to investigate potential health effects that may be associated with the industry. David Brown stated that, “the log demonstrates how difficult it is for any health department to deal with these types of complaints given limited resources and political pressure.” Brown goes on to state that, “the department had more than enough information to mount a more sophisticated response.”
In Heavily Fracked Ohio County, Unsafe Levels of Toxic Pollutants – May 20, 2015
David Hasemyer from InsideClimate News reports on a new study that finds cancer-causing chemicals in the air many times higher than what the EPA considers safe for long-term exposure. David Brown stated that, “the study’s findings should send a message to federal and state regulators that the rules governing exposure to emissions generated by fracking need revising to reflect the growing number of people being exposed.”
McMurray Group Pushes for Fracking Health Registry – May 12, 2015
The Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project (EHP) is pushing for the implementation of a health registry related to unconventional oil and gas development in Pennsylvania. The McMurray-based group hosted a national workshop in Chicago, Illinois. This workshop was attended by 24 people from 11 states and the District of Columbia who work for nongovernmental organizations, health care and public health, the federal government and academic institutions. To read more about the workshop, click here.
Dozens Comment on Drilling Regulations at Washington & Jefferson College – April 29, 2015
Emily Petsko with the Observer-Reporter reports on the public hearing with the Department of Environmental Protection on drilling regulations . Raina Rippel, the director of EHP, stated that, “the setback distance I see in these regulations are inadequate.” In addition, Rippel, along with others, called for a 1-mile setback from schools.
Studies Explore Concerns About Natural-Gas Production and Health – March 2, 2015
Randy Lee Loftis with The Dallas Morning News reports on studies published on health effects associated with natural gas. One of the studies discussed was done by EHP – this study found that that “without data on wind patterns, pollution readings don’t reveal enough to say whether the air is safe.”
Fracking Application Under Review in Penn Township – February 20, 2015
Jake Flannick with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that EHP’s environmental health educator, Ryan Grode, told commissioners that “residents who live near natural gas extraction processes face the possibility of exposure to harmful chemicals.”
Fracking’s Air Pollution: Disgusting, Toxic and Legal – December 18, 2014
Laura Peltier with Baltimore Fishbowl reports on how EHP “sprung into existence to provide health care and support for people living near gas extraction.” In addition, the article touches on EHP’s Speck Monitor, which monitors particulate matter.
Senators Ask How to Address Fracking-Related Health Issues – October 1, 2014
Jon O’Connell from the Wilkes Barre Times-Leader reports on a senate hearing which discussed the inefficiency of state agencies in tracking and reporting data on natural gas production. At the hearing, those who testified said that “private community-minded interests have been working to fill in the gaps and find help for those who feel natural gas development may have caused them to become ill.”
Yale Study Shows Potential Link Between Health Ailments, Gas Wells – September 11, 2014
Emily Petsko with the Observer-Reporter reports findings from a Yale University study. The study showed a potential correlation between the proximity of well sites and symptoms such as dermal and upper respiratory symptoms. Recently, researchers have been drawn to Pennsylvania – especially Washington County – because of the high level of unconventional natural as development. Brian Schwartz, head researcher for the ongoing John Hopkins study stated that, “Pennsylvania is really a very, very important state to study – one of the most rapid of the states to develop this industry.” He continued by saying, “What’s more important about Pennsylvania is that lots of people live in the counties where this is going on.”
SWPA-EHP: A Model for Fracking States – August 15, 2014
From the Styx by Peggy Tibbets states that, “EHP is a bunch of scientists and medical professionals who decided to address the public health impacts head on with or without the government. With the help of private funding they conduct their own research, air & water monitoring, health databases, and provide medical advice and assistance to people in impacted areas.” She goes on to state “these professionals said, ‘Forget the studies, let’s deal with the real problems right in front of us.’ They responded to a public health crisis.”
Air Monitors Provided to Residents Near Marcellus Sites – July 19, 2014
Emily Petsko reports for the Observer-Reporter about residents who have received Speck air quality monitors in Washington County. The article notes that EHP has “set up a new protocol in conjunction with Yale University to study the air quality during emergency situations, such as the incident in May when lightning struck the MarkWest plant and caused a gas leak.”
With No Health Registry, PA Doesn’t Know the Impact of Fracking on Health: Other Studies are Underfunded – April 30, 2014
Natasha Khan reports for PublicSource on the fact that there is no state-funded health research of shale operations in Pennsylvania while making note of EHP’s smaller, community-centered health projects. Observing that EHP, uses “public-health researchers, toxicologists and medical professionals to study health impacts from fracking, (and) also staffs a nurse practitioner who evaluates people who think they’ve been sickened by drilling,” Khan states that “It may be the only outlet in the country doing health-related research and providing medical attention in shale communities.”
Khan goes on to report that: “In June, the Health Project published a health survey of people who live near drilling sites in Washington County. Between 2012 and 2013, the project found 27 cases of sick people who believed their symptoms were caused by air and water pollution from nearby drilling. Their symptoms included skin rashes, eye irritations, breathing problems, headaches and nosebleeds. Researchers and medical professionals at the project continue to monitor them, Rippel said.
In March, the project released a study that suggests common air-monitoring techniques used by state and federal regulators don’t protect the public against health threats. The techniques fail to record harmful air emissions that spike during different stages of gas-drilling operations, researchers found. “And we absolutely feel that those spikes are associated with poor health outcomes,” Rippel said.”
Dangers of Fracking the topic at Villa Maria – April 28, 2014
Mary Grzebieniak of the New Castle News reports on a presentation EHP’s NP-C Family Nurse Practitioner, Suann Davison, gave at Villa Maria last week before an audience of 150 concerned community members. The former Major in the U.S. Air Force stated, “gas and oil drilling puts hazardous chemicals into the environment through seismic testing, wellpad construction, drilling, fracking, wastewater, flaring and gas production and processing.” Davison further noted that “common health effects from these chemicals include neurotoxicity, skin irritation, respiratory problems and gastrointestinal or liver damage.”
Texas: When Fracking Comes to Town – April 27, 2014
Alex Halperin with Al Jazeera America reports on Northern Texans who live near gas wells and their fears for their health. EHP’s Dave Brown is quoted as stating: “The gas industry has provided health data on its own workers who labor on gas pads and bear the greatest risk of exposure to toxins. That is where a proper health study would begin.”
Air Monitoring in Fracking Areas Fails to Detect Spikes in Toxic Emissions, New Study Says – April 3, 2014
Lisa Song and Jim Morris for The Center for Public Integrity reports on the Article “Understanding Exposure From Natural Gas Drilling Puts Current Air Standards to Test”, written by EHP’s public health experts and published in the peer-reviewed journal, Reviews on Environmental Health.”
In Fracking Fight, a Worry about how Best to Measure Health Threats – April 1, 2014
Naveena Sadasivam of ProPublica reports on EHP’s Article “Understanding Exposure From Natural Gas Drilling Puts Current Air Standards to Test”, written by EHP’s public health experts and published in the peer-reviewed journal, Reviews on Environmental Health.”
NGO’s Address Health Impact of Extraction of “Shale Gas” – March 19, 2014
Maria Saldana of Mexico’s El Universal News reports in Spanish on presentations made by EHP’s Raina Rippel, Frac Tracker’s Samantha Malone, and the Izaak Walton League of Pennsylvania’s Ken Dufalla to the State Department Roundtable on Unconventional Natural Gas Development sponsored by the League of Women Voters. Click here for a rough English translation of Ms. Saldana’s report. For a copy of the prepared written remarks of Raina Rippel click here.
Act 13 ruling Buoys Residents near Trax Farm Gas Well: Union Township Homeowners Want More Local Control – Feb 22, 2014
Anya Litvak of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes about the local community near the EQT gas drilling at the Trax Farm and their response to a new ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court declaring unconstitutional parts of Act 13, which limited local zoning control of natural gas wells. The article notes that EHP “has installed air monitors in several homes…”
Meeting looks at Drilling Near Schools – Sept 27, 2013
John Bojarski, staff writer for the Butler Eagle reports on a community meeting held in Butler, PA sponsored by Marcellus Outreach Butler to discuss issues related to flaring near Summit Elementary School in the Butler School District. EHP’s Raina Rippel advised the community residents that homeowners should consider where facilities are. “If they are two miles away or one mile and not downwind, she said there is not much to worry about…However, she said homes within a half mile of natural gas facilities could face pollutants. “Anything within a half mile, I’d be concerned about it.'” Rippel also noted “that weather and other conditions matter. Cloudy days with no wind cause more pollution to stay near the earth’s surface and near homes. Pollutants also are more likely to stay near the surface at night.”
Study: Gas Wells Leave People “Vulnerable” to Health Hazards – Sept 27, 2013
Rick Shrum, Business reporter for the Observer Reporter reports on the results PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center released in a report titled “The Spreading Shadow of the Shale Gas Boom: Fracking’s Growing Proximity to Day Cares, Schools and Hospitals” which found 462 day care centers, 446 schools and 15 hospitals are located two miles or less from a permitted fracking well site in Pennsylvania. “We are putting vulnerable populations, particularly children, in the red zone,” Raina Rippel said in a news release. She is the director of the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project, based in Peters Township. “Given known asthma rates in Pennsylvania,” Rippel continued, “the proximity of gas drilling industrial activities to care facilities and schools, and the known health impacts of pollution such as diesel emissions, we know these vulnerable populations are at risk.
Understanding Fracking: Arguments for and Against Natural Gas Extraction – Sept 9, 2013
Samantha-Rae Tuthill, staff writer for AccuWeather.com reports that “Those in the public health sector are worried about the untested long-term results on residents who live near fracking sites due to potential for the fracking chemicals to create air or water pollution. “It’s essentially an experiment,” Michael Kelly, media liaison for the Southwest Penssyslvania Environmental Health Project (EHP) said. “There are so many unknowns about this that we’re creating a mass health experiment, and it’s being conduct without the consent of the people who are most likely to be hurt by it.”
Parents Worry About Flaring Natural Gas Well Near Summit Elementary School – Sept 7, 2013
Kate Malongowski, staff writer for the Butler Eagle reports on concerns over a flaring natural gas well about 900 feet from a school playground in Butler, PA. EHP was contacted by concerned parents and residents in the area and issued the following one page advisory statement. Stating “From an air pollution model that we have developed, we know that under many conditions emissions from a well site would likely reach an area within 360 yards of it. This means that pollutants from the flaring site could have easily traveled to the school grounds. These pollutants could have been emitted at concentrations that are of concern.”
Health Effects of Gas Drilling Under Study – August 25, 2013
Kevin Begos of the AP wrote this article, which first appeared in the Washington Post but because it was sent out “on the wire” by AP ended up getting carried in literally dozens and dozens of newspapers – some from as far away as New Zealand. Kevin incorrectly reported as a “study” our successfully completing a case series of health impacts plausibly related to gas drilling activities, including both water and air pollution, given either a temporal (time) and/or spatial (distance) relation to residents’ and their health symptoms. In the case series, we found a plausible link between industry activities and negative health outcomes, primarily in adult populations. To grasp some of the negative spins/attacks put out by Industry Supporters in response to this story we would refer readers to our Disinformation Watch. Just two days later, in support of EHP’s findings, a group of Health Experts in New York released the following “Statement on the Preliminary Findings from the Southwest PA Environmental Health Project” which was reported in the following article New York Group Weighs in on Pennsylvania Health Study.
PA House Democrats Seek More Drilling Safeguards – May 4, 2013
Robert Swift, Harrisburg Bureau Chief for The Times-Tribune reports on the PA State House Democrats hearing on expanding environmental and public health safeguards for gas drilling. EHP’s Jill Kriesky testified that “The state needs to create a health registry of people who report plausible symptoms related to drilling…Such data is invaluable to public health researchers, toxicologists and physicians who seek to identify specific symptoms associated with exposures to various stages of the gas extraction process.”
For a copy of EHP’s Jill Kriesky’s full statement please click here.
The Downwinders: Fracking Ourselves to Death in Pennsylvania – May 2, 2013
Ellen Cantarow’s latest article has been cross-published in The Nation Magazine, TheHuffingtonPost.Com and TomDispatch.Com. Cantarow reports that “Pennsylvania farming communities are being turned into huge, open-air laboratories by energy companies…with ordinary people serving as its guinea pigs. And those people are paying a heavy price: mystery illnesses, dead animals, polluted water, land made worthless, and the loss of a way of life.” EHP’s Dave Brown is quoted at some length in the article with Cantarow concluding: “In the vacuum left by the state’s failure to offer protection to those living in fracking zones, volunteers, experts like Brown, and fledgling organizations like the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project have become the new protectors of citizens’ health.”
Environmentalists Raise Fracking Concerns – April 6, 2013
Kriesky spoke about the equipment her agency helps provide to monitor things like air and water quality and the attention a nurse practitioner focuses on symptoms reported by residents like rashes, abdominal pain, stress and anxiety.EHP’s Associate Director, Jill Kriesky was one of more than a dozen speakers and panelists in day-long conference held in Warren, Ohio and titled “Unconventional shale drilling. What we know, what we don’t know, what we need to know to move forward.” Topics included health, environment, economics and water safety. In her segment,
Organic Farmers Struggle to Protect Land from Encroaching Fracking – April 2, 2013
Eco Watch reports on a March 28, 2013 panel discussion in Pittsburgh, Pa., on farming and fracking in which EHP’s Associate Director Jill Kriesky pointed out that without more research into the impact on food production and without greater transparency by the industry and the government it is difficult to track issues related to food consumption. She noted: ““There’s no fence line here. You can’t put a fence around what’s happening” in the communities affected by the shale gas rush.”
Assessing the Health Risks of Fracking – March 9, 2013
The Southwest PA Environmental Health Project (EHP) was asked to share our public health experiences in SWPA with the New York State Health Commissioner Nirav Shah and his team as they review possible health impacts of fracking. Our response ran as an Op-Ed Commentary in the Albany Times Union under the By-Line of EHP’s Public Health Toxicologist David R. Brown, D.Sc.
EHP’s Dr. David Brown wins the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Vision Award – February 13, 2013
Fairfield University honored Dr. David Brown, a long-time Applied Ethics Adjunct Professor and an internationally recognized public health toxicologist with its prestigious Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Faculty Vision Award. Citing “his pioneering efforts to integrate the sciences of toxicology, risk assessment, and environmental exposures to help protect vulnerable populations from serious environmental health problems” it was noted that he is a founding member of the SWPA Environmental Health Project. As stated in his nomination, “Dr. Brown’s modest unassuming manner should not obscure the fact that this is a person in our midst who is guiding national policy on emerging environmental issues.”
Pictured (left to right) are Vision Award honorees Wylie Smith and Sharon Pedrosa, Keynote Speaker Diane Nash, and Vision Award honoree Dr. David Brown.
MOB’s Blog “An Urgent Call to Action from David Brown” – November 13, 2012
Marcellus Outreach Butler’s (MOB) Blog on the The Third Annual Conference on the Health Effects of Shale Gas Extraction, held on November 9, which was hosted by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health included the following comments: “The session I found most informative was the last session of the day, which focused on guidance for persons with health concerns from water and air exposures during natural gas extraction. David Brown, a public health toxicologist…, spoke about the lack of a public health presence in the evaluation of exposure hazards and health concerns related to this gas extraction process. Not only do medical people not know what to do, they do not know what they don’t know, according to Brown. He … emphatically stated when you have uncertain results and significant exposure, you stop the exposure….”
Dave Brown’s entire presentation at the November 9, 2012 Third Annual Conference on the Health Effects of Shale Gas Extraction is available online here.
Top 20 Health Concerns Related to Fracking – October 17, 2012
EcoWatch reports on a series of meetings between medical professionals, scientists – including SWPA EHP’s Public Health Toxicologist Dr. David Brown – and senior staff from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and New York Department of Health as well as representatives from the Governor’s office and the release of a summary report of those meetings which identifies 20 important public health concerns related to gas drilling.
“When there’s a public health emergency, the primary objective is to stop the exposure,” says Dr. David Brown, a public health toxicologist with the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project which is helping sick people get medical care in areas of Pennsylvania with active fracking operations. “We try to help people whose water is contaminated and whose air is severely degraded. We tell them to test their water, stay inside, keep their windows closed, take their shoes off, that kind of thing. But really, at this point there are situations where there’s not much we can do for them. There’s no way for impacted individuals to stop the exposure.”
Heroic Endeavor: NRDC Community Fracking Defense Project – October 4, 2012
On Ecocentric, the official blog for the sustainable food, water and energy programs of the GRACE Communications Foundation, Kai Olson-Sawyer, Research and Policy Analyst reports on NRDC’s launch of its Community Fracking Defense Project. He concluded his comments by specifically noting that “We can’t forget to mention the great work of the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project (SWPA-EHP),…Their website provides invaluable resources for those in dire and immediate trouble in the vicinity of active shale extraction and can serve as a model for the rest of the nation.”
Public Health Impacts Stemming From Fracking – September 21, 2012
On September 21, 2012 SWPA-EHP Director, Raina Rippel, made an important presentation at a conference entitled “The Potential Health Effects of Hydraulic Fracturing” held at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.
In this clip (below) Raina Rippel emphasizes the Public Health ramifications of natural gas drilling: “There are tangible impacts. There is empirical evidence…. There are health impacts, there are quality of life impacts, they are real, we are seeing them and we need to figure out how to address those.“
Subsequent online coverage of this event has proven quite divergent. Consider these two examples: In a blog entitled “Days of Fracking Rage Sept 24, 2012″ Raina Rippel’s actual presentation was reported in the 7th and 8th paragraphs of the story pretty much verbatim.
While in an article by Taunya English of Newsworks WHYY entitled “In Philly symposium experts debate health effects of fracking,”, emphasis was placed — beginning with the headline — on whether public health impacts even exist. One needs to drill down in the article and read the comments section from event attendees to learn that the bulk of the discussion was not on debating the existence of public health impacts but rather on exploring options for how to deal with the public health impacts. The panel’s complete presentations can be found on YouTube.
Unconventional Gas Extraction Threats – Fall, 2012
In the Fall, 2012 Issue of the “New England College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine Reporter” SWPA-EHP’s medical consultant Leslie Walleigh, MD, MPH warns that “Unconventional gas extraction, made possible by recently developed technologies, carries the risk of widespread air and water contamination with chemicals recognized as hazardous to human health.”
Studies on Impact of Drilling Seek Funds – September 2, 2012
Kevin Begos of the Associate Press reports on a “much-publicized plan by two Pennsylvania health companies to study possible impacts from gas drilling” pointing out that “it is only in the preliminary stages as the groups continue to look for major funding” while noting that “the next big push” by SWPA-EHP which has “been examining similar questions” will be “on air quality.” “Raina Rippel of the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project says “We have plans in the works to look a personal monitors people could wear” to detect harmful levels of natural gas.”
SWPA-EHP Releases Guidelines to Monitor, Test Private Wells – June 18, 2012
Amy Freidnenberger from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Pipeline reports that the SWPA-EHP has “released a set of guidelines for monitoring and testing private wells in the effort to address the concerns of Washington County residents who are worried about the safety of water from private wells near natural gas drilling locations”.
“The report, .”Well Water Contamination: SWPA-EHP Ranking System and Monitoring System” includes a monitoring and ranking system for residents to use in order to help them know what actions to take if they determine levels of contamination in well water.”
Sick From Fracking? Doctors, Patients Seek Answers – May 15, 2012
In a week long special series “The Fracking Boom: Missing Answers”, NPR explores the questions surrounding natural gas drilling and fracking. With more that 200,000 wells currently drilled, people living on the front door steps of the drilling have raised the question: Are these wells creating harmful pollutants? Rob Stein, Correspondent and Senior Editor on NPR’s Science Desk explores why there isn’t an answer yet by looking at a rural clinic in Burgettstown, PA which recently had to close its doors. The clinic had sought out the assistance of the SWPA-EHP, and David R. Brown and Raina Rippel are interviewed in the story.
Is Pennsylvania ignoring health issues on shale drilling? – May 13, 2012
This Associated Press article discusses the slow response time of PA Health Officials to community health complaints. Dave R. Brown makes the point that due to the lack of any additional funding budgeted to the Health Department to investigate and respond to this increased workload: “I am not surprised that their protocols are…difficult to get in place….I can tell you right now, you cannot do this on a shoestring.”
Docs say Drilling Law Hurts Health – April 11, 2012
The Associated Press talks to public health leaders, including David R. Brown and John F. Suggs of the SWPA-EHP, about the new PA law requiring doctors to sign a confidentiality agreement in return for access to proprietary information on chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing and how vital research money into the health impacts was stripped from the law at the last minute.
Marcellus: Health Impact “Searching For Common Ground” – March 29, 2012
This episode of WQED’s “Pittsburgh 360”, takes a look at the impact Marcellus Shale drilling is having on our region. Tonia Caruso finds out how one group (SWPA-EHP) is addressing the health concerns of drilling in Southwest Pennsylvania. The episode starts at 12:10 into the video.
“Is Fracking Making People Sick?” – March 23, 2012
Pennsylvania Public Radio program “The Allegheny Front” and Public Radio International “Living on Earth” report on the possible health effects of fracking and interview Raina Rippel, Project Director of SWPA-EHP amongst others.
Center Seeks To Shed Light On Fracking And Health – March 19, 2012
Jon Hurdle notes in his AOL Energy Blog that “In the continuing debate over whether fracking for natural gas contaminates drinking water, a new health center in the midst of Pennsylvania’s drilling country may provide fresh clues.”
Cuomo and Corbett Ignore Health Concerns from Gas Fracking – March 9, 2012
Peter Mantius Shale Writer for the DC Bureau cited the Center’s work and quoted David Brown; “We’re taking a public health approach to gas drilling,” said David R. Brown, an SWPA-EHP organizer and former supervisor of superfund sites for the CDC. Brown has also served as chief of epidemiology for the Connecticut Department of Health. “We want to treat the people, not track the cause … to break the train of transmission. That’s what you do in any outbreak.”
Nonprofit to Work With the “Canaries” in the Shale Mine – Feb 24, 2012
The Nonprofit Quarterly’s Louis Altman reports on the SWPA-EHP new services and quotes local pediatrician Dr. Helen Podgainy who says “she doesn’t know “what we should be on the lookout for,” but she doesn’t want her young patients to serve as “the canaries in the coal mine,” or, in this case, as canaries in the shale.”
New Pennsylvania group leading the way in first-of-its-kind health care for oil and gas communities – Feb 21, 2012
Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)’s Senior Policy Analyst Amy Mall praised the organization in her blog saying “Their staff experts bring decades of eminent experience, extensive education, and priceless knowledge and environmental health expertise to this issue. I am glad there will now be a new resource to help families being harmed by natural gas activities in southwest Pennsylvania, and hope it is a model that can be replicated elsewhere.”
First-ever shale health office opens: Nonprofit program to assess effects of rampant gas development – Feb 21, 2012
Don Hopey, who has been covering environment issues for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette since 1992, writes about the Launch of the Health Center in McMurray, PA noting that it is the “first-of-its-kind medical program to assess both the individual and public health impacts of widespread Marcellus Shale gas development”.
Shale Health Office Available for Southwest PA Residents – Feb 21, 2012
Sam Malone from FracTracker gave the organization a wonderful welcome noting that
“Raina and her team are fantastic resources, enabling us to better understand localized concerns and impacts and providing an outlet through which we can share the information we gather during our data analyses.”
Stay Up to Date
For More Information please contact:
Raina Rippel, Director
SWPA Environmental Health Project
2001 Waterdam Plaza Drive, Suite 201,
McMurray, PA 15317
Open Monday — Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.