Study Shows No Correlation Between Fracking And Asthma, Despite Media Claims

(Reuters/Jim Urquhart)

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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A new study published Monday found no link between hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and asthma, despite numerous claims a link did exist in media coverage of the study.

USA Today, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and CBS News all claimed the study directly linked fracking to asthma, when the authors of the study openly state they have no data to show fracking causes asthma or make symptoms worse.

The data shows counties with the most asthma have little to no fracking. The study was directly funded by a foundation with close ties to an environmental movement — the official position of which is anti-fracking.

“News outlets were quick to link fracking to asthma even though the authors admitted they do not have the data to support it,” Dr. Katie Brown, a spokeswoman for the energy industry group Energy In Depth, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.” That important caveat was purposely buried in the study, and not part of the press release. Unfortunately, the media wrote what the researchers wanted them to write, I suppose, because it’s easier to be a stenographer than a researcher.”

The team of researchers who published the study also incorrectly claimed premature birthrates were higher in counties closest to fracking. One of the researchers even worked at an environmental group which has called fracking a “virus.”

Studies by state regulatory agencies, industry groupsacademics and data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) show fracking does not harm air quality. Industry research and government sources statefracking for natural gas is almost certainly making the air cleaner and sharply cutting asthma rates by displacing dirtier coal power.

The media pieces covering the study didn’t note any of these factors, and some were openly anti-fracking. The author of the USA Today piece tweeted out the story with the message “No frackin’ way,” and said “Dreams really do come true” when a prominent environmentalist retweeted a previous story. The author previously tweeted support for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, who wants to ban all fracking.

Sloppy research and media reporting on fracking are nothing new.

A University of Cincinnati study regularly cited by activists claiming fracking causes air pollution was quietly retracted earlier this month due to “errors” and “incorrect” calculations.

The researchers admitted correcting their errors “changes air concentrations significantly relative to those reported in the published article. This correction also changes some of the conclusions reported in the original article.” Researchers retracted the study because of a basic math error caused by the use of incorrect units and improper use of a spreadsheet.

The Cincinnati study had numerous other flaws, as participants were actively recruited by an anti-fracking activist group, as well as not using random testing and not accounting for sources of health hazards other than oil and gas activity. The scientists behind the study previously admitted the sample size used for their study was too small and the chief assumption used for the research model was “totally impractical.”

The University of Cincinnati has yet to publish another three-year study, which was financially supported by environmental groups, that found fracking had no effect on water quality in five eastern Ohio counties at the center of the Utica shale boom. The study’s publication has been delayed for over a year, despite media attention and numerous calls from industry groups and elected officials.

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