Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have published a study linking unconventional gas development with asthma attacks.
“We found that patients living closer to more—or bigger—unconventional natural gas wells had higher risk for an asthma attack,” says Sara Rasmussen, the study’s lead author.
Researchers analyzed more than 35,000 health records of asthma patients in the Geisinger health system, which operates in north and central Pennsylvania. The study, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, is the first of its kind to use objective health data to study fracking’s impact on breathing problems.
“It’s not that someone said they went to the hospital or had an asthma attack,” Rasmussen says. “We know the date because it happened. It’s recorded in the Geisinger clinic’s electronic health record.”
The study doesn’t say how the asthma attacks were brought on. But the researchers say air pollution, stress and exposure to truck traffic near gas wells are possible explanations.
“They’re all potential ways that unconventional natural gas development could affect asthma exacerbations.”
Rasmussen says the team’s next step is to try to identify the exact cause of the asthma uptick in Pennsylvania’s fracking country.