By Aimen Zehra, age 12 and IndyKids staff
Fracking is a method used to extract fossil fuels from hard-to-reach places underground. However, researchers at Yale School of Public Health have now found that children living within a mile of a fracking well are twice as likely to develop leukemia than other children.
The study, which was recently published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, found that children living within a mile of a fracking well in Pennsylvania were developing leukemia at an above-average rate. The researchers also found children born to pregnant women who lived near fracking wells were three times more likely to be diagnosed with leukemia than other newborns.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a drilling process which releases natural gas and retrieves oil contained in old shale rocks. High-pressure drills inject chemicals, water and other substances like sand into the ground. This process fractures, or breaks up, the rocks and forces fossil fuels out. This controversial drilling method has been heavily criticized for a number of reasons. The chemicals used in fracking can contaminate surrounding ground and surface water used for drinking, which can be harmful to the health of local residents and the planet. The method also leaks millions of tons of methane, a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere and has been found to release other cancer-causing toxins into the air.
Currently, the legal distance companies must keep between fracking wells and residences varies in each state. Pennsylvania law allows fracking to take place just 500 feet away from a residential area, and some states allow distances of just 150 feet. Nicole Deziel, a researcher working on the study, explains that these results highlight “the need to revisit our public health policy protections and some of the distances that exist.”