NPR Uses Debunked Studies In Effort To Support Claims That Fracking Harms Health

As part of its woefully misleading and one-sided series attacking the oil and gas industry, NPR’s Marketplace published a story on Wednesday suggesting fracking chemicals are harming public health. In an effort to support that narrative, reporter Scott Tong lists a dozen studies he (presumably) feels best support the argument, while also adding the following disclaimer:

“While no medical diagnoses have been revealed to be caused directly by these oil and gas drilling chemicals, cause and effect can be difficult to prove.”

Translation: None of the studies listed by MarketPlace prove causation, which is a systemic shortcoming of literature attempting to link fracking to health problems that has been flagged by environmental research group Resources For the Future (RFF). But this is just one of a myriad of flaws shared by each of the studies included Marketplace’s list. Let’s review.

Study #1: McKenzie et al., 2012 (link)

Marketplace leads off with this infamous study, claiming it shows “air pollution caused by fracking may lead to health problems for those who live near natural gas drilling sites.” There is no mention at all that this study is so seriously flawed that the research team responsible for the paper was fired by the Colorado county that commissioned it almost a year before the study was published. Garfield County environmental health chief Jim Rada also disavowed the paper for its “significant” data limitations.

Though the study’s conclusions were based on actual air samples (a rarity among such literature), it exaggerated emissions from well development by at least 10 times, due largely to the fact that the researchers failed to into account exhaust fumes from a major interstate highway less than a mile away.

The study’s long list of flaws also includes the fact that it included no background emissions data and also failed to note the cancer risk detected was not above the national average. The researchers’ methodology was so bad that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) reneged on its planned funding of the research. CDPHE has been a vocal critic of lead researcher Lisa McKenzie’s work ever since, which brings us to the next study on Marketplace’s list.

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A quote from the Marketplace story:

Latkanich thinks fracking chemicals polluted his water well and made his family sick. Four years ago, when his son, Ryan, 7, was in the bathtub, Latkanich said, “His mother screams upstairs like bloody murder. Something is wrong with Ryan! And he came out with rashes that were beyond poison ivy or oak.”

Latkanich thinks fracking chemicals that were shot down the gas well and came back up were stored in a pit on his property that wasn’t lined — as it was supposed to be — to prevent leaking. ... Since the bath that led to his son’s rash, Latkanich said the boy has been diagnosed with asthma and suffered incontinence, “defecating himself almost on a daily basis from just the use of this water, apparently.”

Latkanich himself has been diagnosed with neuropathy, a kind of nerve damage that causes him joint pain.

Two Marketplace stories are here:


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