Policy: Environment & Energy

Popular anti-fracking study discredited by Colorado health department

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Health,Colorado,Ashe Schow,Energy and Environment,Fracking

Research claiming that hydraulic fracturing -- fracking -- causes increased cancer risks and birth defects have been discredited by Colorado state public health officials.

The researchers with the Colorado School of Public Health cited "minuscule" statistical differences and ignored other factors in producing a report on the negative side effects of fracking, according to a statement released by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on Thursday.

“It is difficult to draw conclusions from this study, due to its design and limitations,” Dr. Larry Wolk, CDPHE’s chief medical officer, said. “We appreciate continuing research about possible public health implications that may be associated with oil and gas operations in Colorado.

“With regard to this particular study, people should not rush to judgment."

Why? Because the study didn’t distinguish between active wells and inactive wells. It also did not distinguish between vertical, horizontal, oil or natural gas wells.

“This makes it difficult to draw conclusions on the actual exposure people may have had,” Wolk said.

Further, the researchers never considered outside factors that may have resulted in birth defects, such as drinking or smoking.

“Without considering the effect of these personal risk factors, as well as the role of genetic factors, it is very difficult to draw conclusions from this study,” Wolk said.

Oddly, the study in question showed a decreased risk of pre-term birth among women who lived closer to wells, which should have raised questions about its findings from the beginning.

The researchers noted in the study that they never bothered to check where the mother lived during conception or the first trimester. This is when most birth defects occur, so not knowing what was going on in the mother’s life at that time is a significant problem in determining whether fracking was to blame.

But all these obvious errors didn't stop anti-fracking activists from using the study to further myths about the dangers of fracking.

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