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Special Journal to Share Proceedings from Duquesne’s Fracking and Health Conference

Fracking and health will be the topic of a special issue of the Journal of Environmental Science and Health, Part A, which will feature papers previously presented at a Duquesne University conference.

Eight papers from Facing the Challenges: Research on Shale Gas Extraction, a two-day event about unconventional shale extraction and health in 2013, will comprise the publication. The selected papers focus on human, environmental and animal health impacts from energy extraction.

"This publication presents some of the biggest topics scientists are grappling with as they study unconventional energy extraction," said Dr. John Stolz, director of Duquesne's Center for Environmental Research and Education and the conference organizer. "Given the importance of fracking and its possible impacts on health and the environment, we welcome this special issue. It provides academics, industry experts and residents with the opportunity to see a number of different aspects gathered in one volume."

Articles in the publication include:

  • Current Perspectives on Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction in the Appalachian Basin, by Drs. David Lampe, associate professor of biological sciences at Duquesne, and Stolz. This comprehensive review of extraction processes covers leases, drilling and completion, and environmental impacts.
  • Long-Term Impacts of Unconventional Drilling Operations on Human and Animal Health, by Drs. Michelle Bamberger and Robert Oswald of Vet Behavior Consults/Cornell University. By following 21 humans, food and companion animals, and wildlife for an average of 25 months, the researchers found that more than half of all harmful exposures were related to drilling and hydraulic fracturing operations; more than one-third were related to wastewater, processing and production.
  • Human Exposure to Unconventional Natural Gas Development: A Public Health Demonstration of Periodic High Exposure to Chemical Mixtures in Ambient Air.

Dr. David Brown of the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project and colleagues found that peak human exposure to polluted air was produced from compressors and during drilling, flaring, finishing and gas production stages, rather than from hydraulic fracturing itself.

  • Well Water Contamination in a Rural Community in Southwestern PA with Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction, by Shyama K. Alawattegama, a water quality specialist and former graduate research assistant at Duquesne, examined well water contamination in a small community. Nearly 40 percent of the participants indicated water contamination occurring shortly after unconventional drilling began; subsequent water testing showed chloride, sulfate, sodium, calcium, iron, manganese and strontium were present.
  • Reported Health Conditions in Animals Residing near Natural Gas Wells in Southwestern Pennsylvania by Dr. Ilya B. Slizovskiy, formerly of Yale University, and colleagues studied health data of 2,452 companion and backyard animals in 157 randomly-selected households near active wells. They found 127 health conditions, most commonly among dogs-concluding that dogs are good health sentinels.

"Because of the significance of fracking in our region, it was natural that Duquesne host a conference about related scientific work," said Dr. Philip Reeder, dean of Duquesne's Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences. "Having others in the academic community put such value on this work, to create an entire publication around it, is gratifying. Besides expanding knowledge in the field, the research has added value for decision-making in our community and beyond."
Even with the breadth of work presented in this volume, "The papers represent only a smattering of what was presented at the conference in 2013," said Stolz, adding that a recording of all conference proceedings is available online at www.duq.edu/facing-the-challenges.

The journal can be accessed at www.tandfonline.com/lesa.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.