From a media blitz to calls for statewide drilling bans, here's a look at the fallout and impacts so far from EHN's investigation of western Pennsylvania fracking impacts.
One month after publication of EHN.org's groundbreaking "Fractured" investigation, lawmakers, civic groups and journalists are pulling our findings into news coverage, community actions, and calls for policy change.
The series has drawn local, national, and international media coverage, and prompted action from readers, activists, and legislators.
Here's a sampling of the impacts so far, and some additional ways readers can take action to help move the needle on the critical issues covered in the reporting.
Media interviews & stories
- Living on Earth - the NPR podcast interviewed EHN reporter Kristina Marusic
- Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Will Bunch asked, "Will Pa. shrug off new fracking horror stories?"
- NowThis put out a video about Fractured.
- The Independent published a news article about Fractured: "'Cancer-causing' chemicals found in children living near fracking well sites following two-year investigation."
- A TribLive reader wrote a Letter to the Editor: "Nowhere to hide from dangers of fracking."
- Raging Chicken Media interviewed EHN reporter Kristina Marusic for its Out d'Coup podcast.
- Argentinian NGO Observatorio Petrolero Sur cited Fractured in its reporting on communities in northern Patagonia that are experiencing health issues they believe are related to fracking.
- Veronica Coptis, executive director of the Washington County nonprofit The Center for Coalfield Justice, published a moving blog post in response to Fractured.
I hope that having these test results will empower [these families] to be able to better advocate for their health, for the health of their kids, and for the safety of their communities. And I have seen that start to happen since the series was published." - Kristina Marusic
We should remember this as the year that the great political debate over fracking for oil and natural gas ended—at least here in the critical state of Pennsylvania. On one hand, there's mounting evidence that the frenzy for unconventional gas drilling under the Marcellus Shale has failed to produce any lasting job boom or the tax revenue that its backers promised. On the other hand, scientists have more proof that fracking has polluted the air and water of nearby residents, as worries about the health impacts are spiking. Is it really a debate when both hands are on the same side?
'Skin issues, rashes, breathing issues, … behavioral issues' — These southwestern PA residents spoke out about how living near fracking sites has affected their health.
"This is yet another study showing the harms of what Pennsylvania is surrounded by, whether it's waste or industry with compressor stations or pipelines or frack-pads," Pennsylvania State Senator Katie Muth told The Independent. "Why is this allowed to happen? This is completely preventable."
How much does the average Pennsylvania resident know about the fracking industry and the resulting health detriments it causes? The article "Fractured: Harmful chemicals and unknowns haunt Pennsylvanians surrounded by fracking" in Environmental Health News, about a Washington County family, is a must-read for those who have not been following the issues.
To me, this seems like systemic abuse, because it's like...where can you go?... You can't just leave this abusive relationship with fracking in western Pennsylvania. - Podcast host Kevin Mahoney
Situaciones similares a las descritas por las vecinas de Calle Ciega 10 se han registrado en el estado de Pensilvania, Estados Unidos. Una reciente investigación de Environmental Health News da cuenta de los padecimientos que de quienes viven en una de las áreas más perforadas de ese país.
Rough translation: Situations similar to those described by the neighbors of Calle Ciega 10 have been documented in the state of Pennsylvania, United States. A recent investigation by Environmental Health News accounts for the ailments of those who live in one of the most heavily-fracked areas of that country.
As a mother of two young children living a mile from several oil and gas operations, these articles were challenging to read, and I want to acknowledge that I needed time to move through being consumed by anxiety and fear over the risk my children are being exposed to as I read through them.
Legislative and advocacy action
35 lawmakers wrote a letter to Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf urging action in response to Fractured. (Credit: Governor Tom Wolf/flickr)
- 35 lawmakers wrote a letter to Governor Tom Wolf urging action in response to Fractured.
This study adds to an ever-growing mountain of evidence comprising more than ten years of epidemiological studies from across the United States that demonstrate a connection between a person's proximity to shale gas development and a host of negative human health conditions, significant ecological impacts, and dire economic projections for the affected individuals.
- The Better Path Coalition urged Governor Wolf to consider a statewide fracking ban in response to Fractured
The chilling results show that families living near fracking operations have alarming levels of chemicals like xylene, ethylbenzene, styrene, toluene, and others in their bodies, in their air, and in their water...How much more evidence does Governor Wolf need to provide the same protection to Pennsylvanians in the shale fields he was prepared to provide to people in the Delaware River Basin four years ago?
- Concerned Health Professionals of New York issued a statement calling for a comprehensive phase-out of fracking in response to Fractured.
Pennsylvania's children should not be used as laboratory rats in an uncontrolled human experiment involving toxic exposures.
- The Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project* called for additional research using the same methodology used in Fractured.
The EHN investigation...shows a path forward to definitive biomonitoring approaches when studying the body burden of people living in proximity to shale gas development.
"I've been involved advocating for the Delaware River Basin since before I had my first child, and I am so grateful for the scientific reporting on these outcomes...Let's create a letter-to-the-editor template with talking points to share widely, focusing on Fractured results and the fact that exposures are ongoing and largely undocumented and unknown." - Rachel Dawn Davis
Ohio Valley Environmental Resistance did an action calling out Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald on his persistent cheerleading for the fracking and petrochemical industries. Held on Pi Day (March 14), it was a science-themed push-back to Fitzgerald's comment that "We believe in science around here," and included literature for surrounding residents with references to this [Fractured] and other studies.
"This is tremendous public health investigation and reporting. Having worked in environmental health previously, I know it was no small feat to design such a study that included air monitoring and urinalysis and looked for correlations between exposures and the metabolites. " -Nina Baird, PhD, MSPH, Assistant Professor at Carnegie Mellon University
How can you push this story forward?
- Contact your elected officials, town council, or county health office, or write a letter to the editor of your local paper to share the investigation and request action.
- Donate to EHN to support continued coverage of this issue and further investigations into issues affecting our health and environment.
- Join local, national, or international networks of people who are interested in and active on this issue. A couple examples: Halt the Harm*,Physicians for Social Responsibility
* Editor's note: Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project and EHN.org both receive funding from the Heinz Endowments, but their work remains independent from the foundation. Halt the Harm Network's president serves on the advisory board of Environmental Health Sciences, publisher of EHN.org.
Banner photo: Children involved in EHN's Fractured study participate in a 2019 youth climate change protest in downtown Pittsburgh. (Credit: Connor Mulvaney for Environmental Health News)