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Pitt Study Finds Perceptions of Fracking Linked with Higher Stress Levels

A small sampling of people living near Marcellus Shale development sites were found to have higher rates of perceived health problems and stress levels.

That’s according to a study done by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. This was not a clinical study, but researchers said it could provide insight into effects of stress.

“It’s been shown that stress can be related directly to health impacts and can create other health impacts,” said lead author Kyle Ferrar. “As stress increases, you can often find an increase in other health impacts as well.”

Researchers surveyed 33 people concerned about fracking in their communities. Ferrar said this is the first time such a study has been done by conducting in-person, in-depth interviews. Similar studies have been done in fracking areas in Colorado and Wyoming, and similar results were found.

In Pennsylvania, six main stressors were found among the people.

“The individuals saying they were denied or provided with false information,” Ferrar said, “concerns over corruption either with regulatory organizations, or with the drilling companies; their concerns or complaints were ignored; being taken advantage of; having financial damages, and experiencing noise pollution.”

In follow-up interviews, Ferrar said researchers found the stress levels did not lessen over time, but rather they seemed to increase. This study, however, is only a starting point.

“What this does is it provides background data for a large scale epidemiological study that we feel will be funded but hasn’t as-yet been funded,” Ferrar said. “An epidemiological study is a study that will monitor the lives and the health of a large sample of people for an extended period of time.”

In addition to high stress levels, those surveyed reported issues such as headaches, rashes, shortness of breath, nausea and sore throats. While none of those issues was studying in this report, Ferrar said stress could play a role, and the industry could take simple steps to help lessen peoples’ fears.

“The high percentage of the group who report stressor issues such as being lied to could be corrected very easily if the industry was more transparent and responsive,” he said.

Ferrar does point out the sample size for this study was small, and he added the group is considered a biased sample because they either approached researchers or were referred to them because of their outspokenness against Marcellus Shale drilling.

The report was published in the May issue of the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health.