Particulate matter pollution emitted by Pennsylvania’s fracking wells killed about 20 people between 2010 and 2017, according to a soon-to-be-published study.
Pennsylvania is the second-largest producer of natural gas in the U.S. after Texas. Between 2010 and 2017, there were 20,677 permitted fracking wells in the state, about half of which had been drilled. Fracking, another name for hydraulic fracturing, is a process of extracting oil and gas from the Earth by drilling deep wells and injecting liquid at high pressure.
One of fracking’s byproducts is particulate matter pollution, also referred to as PM 2.5, which consists of tiny, airborne particles of chemicals that, when inhaled, make their way into the lungs and bloodstream, increasing cancer risk and causing heart and respiratory problems. Exposure to PM 2.5 kills an estimated 20,000 Americans each year.
Previous studies have found that heavily-fracked communities face higher rates of numerous health effects including preterm births, high-risk pregnancies, asthma, and cardiovascular disease—but this is the first to investigate the direct relationship between the local increase in PM 2.5 caused by fracking and deaths from respiratory and heart issues that can be attributed to that increase.EHN