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A new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has found that elderly individuals who live near or downwind of unconventional oil and gas development (UOGD) wells are at increased risk of premature mortality, compared to those not living near such drilling operations. UOGD extraction methods include hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, and directional (nonvertical) drilling.
The researchers looked at data from over 15 million Medicare beneficiaries, age 65 and up, living in all major UOGD exploration areas throughout the US from 2001 to 2015, and from more than 2.5 million oil and gas wells. They found that risk of premature mortality rose with proximity to UOGD wells, with those living closest to the wells having 2.5% greater risk than those who did not live near wells. People who lived near or downwind of wells had higher risk than those living upwind.
The findings suggest that airborne contaminants emitted by the wells are contributing to elevated mortality, according to the researchers. Study co-author Francesca Dominici noted: “There is an urgent need to understand the causal link between living near or downwind of UOGD and adverse health effects.”
Sources: Living near or downwind of unconventional oil and gas development linked with increased risk of early death. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, January 27, 2022. hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/living-near-or-downwind-of-unconventional-oil-and-gas-development-linked-with-increased-risk-of-early-death/.
Li L, Dominici F, Blomberg AJ, et al. Exposure to unconventional oil and gas development and all-cause mortality in Medicare beneficiaries. Nat Energy 2022; 7:177-185. doi.org/10.1038/s41560-021-00970-y.
Published in the Price-Pottenger Journal of Health and Healing
Spring 2022 | Volume 46, Number 1
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