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Living Near Fracking Well Ups Risk Of Childhood Leukemia

Mounting evidence is showing that fracking is terrible for Earth's climate, the environment, and public health.

author

Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

clockAug 23 2022, 09:54 UTC
A fracking rig against blue and pink sky sunset.
There are more than 1.7 millon fracking wells in the US, according to the Independent Petroleum Association of America. Image credit: FreezeFrames/Shutterstock.com

Living near a fracking site is linked to an increased risk of children developing leukemia, new research has suggested. The new study was published last week in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Scientists at Yale University studied a sample of nearly 2,500 children in Pennsylvania, with 405 diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a type of cancer that affects white blood cells. 

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ALL is the most common type of cancer in children. While the survival rate is relatively high, survivors are at a higher risk of other health problems, developmental and psychological issues, and learning difficulties.

The latest study found that children who live within 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) of a fracking well had a 1.98 times higher chance of developing ALL compared to those who lived nowhere near a well. If they lived this close to a fracking site while they were still in the womb, the risk was 2.8 times higher. 

This is after the researchers accounted for other factors that might be related to being diagnosed with cancer, such as socioeconomic status and ethnic background. 

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Fracking, also known as hydraulic fracturing or unconventional oil and gas developments (UOG), is the process of pumping bedrock with water, sand, and chemicals in an attempt to access stores of fossil fuels trapped deep beneath the Earth’s surface. 

There’s plenty of evidence to show that this process of fossil fuel extraction is terrible for the climate, the environment, and public health. In particular, a number of studies have linked it to pregnancy complications. However, few studies have directly looked at the link between fracking exposure and cancer in children.

“Studies of UOG exposure and cancer are extremely few in number. We set out to conduct a high-quality study to further investigate this potential relationship,” Cassandra Clark, the study’s first author and a postdoctoral associate at the Yale Cancer Center, said in a statement.

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“Our results indicate that exposure to UOG may be an important risk factor for ALL, particularly for children exposed in utero,” she added.

As for a possible mechanism, their study also indicated that the proximity of a fracking well to a child’s local water supply might also play a factor in the heightened risk of leukemia. Considering that fracking can contaminate water supplies if it is not done properly, this possible link makes a lot of sense. 

“Unconventional oil and gas development can both use and release chemicals that have been linked to cancer, so the potential for children living near UOG to be exposed to these chemical carcinogens is a major public health concern,” added Nicole Deziel, senior study author and associate professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health.


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  • tag
  • cancer,

  • leukemia,

  • fossil fuels,

  • health,

  • fracking

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