Study links hydraulic fracturing to increased risk of heart attack hospitalization and death – ScienceDaily

The Marcellus Formation straddles the border between New York State and Pennsylvania, an area that shares similar geography and demographic demographics. However, on one side of the state line the development of unconventional natural gas – or hydraulic fracturing – is prohibited, while on the other, it represents a multibillion-dollar industry. New research is taking advantage of this “ natural experiment ” to examine the health effects of fracking and has found that people who live in areas with high concentrations of wells are at higher risk of heart attack.

“Fracking is associated with increased rates of acute myocardial infarction hospitalization in middle-aged men, older men and older women, as well as increased heart attack mortality in middle-aged men, ”said Elaine Hill, Ph.D., partner. Professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and lead author of the study published in the journal Environmental research. “Our results support increased awareness of the cardiovascular risks associated with the development of unconventional natural gas and increased prevention of heart attacks, and suggest that banning hydraulic fracturing may be protective for public health.

Natural gas extraction, including hydraulic fracturing, is a well-known contributor to air pollution. Fracking wells operate around the clock, and the process of drilling, gas extraction and flaring – the combustion of natural gas byproducts – releases organic compounds, nitrogen oxides and others. chemicals and particles in the air. In addition, each well requires the constant transport of equipment, water and chemicals, as well as the removal of wastewater from the fracking process, further contributing to air pollution levels. Fracturing wells remain in service for several years, prolonging the exposure of people who work at the well sites and those who live nearby.

Instead of the typical single source of industrial air pollution, such as a factory or power plant, hydraulic fracturing involves multiple well sites spread over a large, often rural, geographic area. In 2014, there were more than 8,000 frack well sites in Pennsylvania. Some areas of the state have a dense population of frack wells – three counties in Pennsylvania have more than 1,000 sites. Compare that with New York State, which has essentially banned the hydraulic fracturing process since 2010.

Exposure to air pollution is recognized as a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Other research has shown that the intensity of development and production of oil and gas is positively associated with decreased vascular function, blood pressure, and inflammatory markers associated with stress and short-term exposure. to air pollution. Light and noise pollution from the continued operation of wells is also associated with increasing stress, which is another contributing factor to cardiovascular disease.

The research team set out to measure the impact of hydraulic fracturing on cardiovascular health by studying hospitalization and death rates from heart attacks in 47 counties on either side of the New York and New York state border. Pennsylvania. Using data from 2005 to 2014, they observed that heart attack rates were 1.4-2.8% higher in Pennsylvania, depending on age group and level of fracking activity in a county. given.

The associations between hydraulic fracturing and heart attack hospitalization and death were most consistent among men aged 45 to 54, a group most likely to be in the industry’s workforce. unconventional gas and probably the most exposed to air pollutants and stressors associated with fracking. Heart attack deaths also increase in this age group by 5.4 percent or more in counties with high concentrations of well sites. Hospitalization and death rates have also increased sharply among women over 65.

Hydraulic fracturing is more concentrated in rural communities, which the authors say could further compromise cardiovascular health due to the tendency for rural hospitals to close. People with cardiovascular disease in these areas may be at increased risk for health problems, including death, due to limited access to care. The authors suggest that more should be done to raise awareness about the risks of fracking for cardiovascular disease, and doctors should more closely monitor high-risk patients who reside in areas with fracking activity. They also argue that the study should inform policymakers of the trade-offs between public health and industry-generated economic activity.

“These findings contribute to the growing body of evidence on the detrimental health effects of fracking,” said Alina Denham, Ph.D. candidate in health policy at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. and first author of the study. “Several states, including New York, have taken the precaution of banning hydraulic fracturing until more is known about the consequences for health and the environment. If the causal mechanisms behind our findings are established, our results would suggest that bans on hydraulic fracturing may be protective for humans. health.”

The study was funded with support from the National Institutes of Health Office of the Director.

Source of the story:

Material provided by University of Rochester Medical Center. Original written by Mark Michaud. Note: Content can be changed for style and length.

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