Health Jury: Ban Fracking

“If these health effects are not due to fracking, what has changed, we couldn’t think of anything else.” Dr. Brian Schwartz

(Republished blog from November 24, 2019)

Over the course of several years, I’ve heard Dr. Schwartz speak at the Shale and Public Health conference in Pittsburgh. His research and studies have benefited greatly from being able to analyze health data from the large Geisinger Health System database in Pennsylvania.

Image: “Ban Fracking Now” from Food and Water Watch

In other words, he and his team of researchers have been able to link actual adverse health outcomes to specific locations near drilling and fracking. Using further methods that would silence any “doubting Thomas” he finally reached the conclusion in his quote above, as well as what was reported in the media:

“We should stop fracking — everywhere.”

Reid Frazier of StateImpact Pennsylvania writes:

Johns Hopkins researcher: Pa. should ban fracking – Cites years of public health studies; climate change
November 20, 2019 – A scientist at Johns Hopkins University told a public health conference in Pittsburgh that Pennsylvania should ban fracking because of its impact on public health and climate change. Brian Schwartz has found through years of National Institutes of Health-funded studies that being close to fracking increases the likelihood of asthma, premature birth, headaches, and maternal stress levels. He said the evidence that fracking is bad for your health is clear enough. “What would I say now? I would say because of the regional and local health concerns and concerns about climate change, we should stop fracking–everywhere,” he said. 

VIDEO: Time to Turn the Page on Fracking!

Health conference presentations through the years:

2019 Video – Science and Policy: A panel discussion
Brian Schwartz MD, Johns Hopkins; Senior Investigator, Geisinger Health Research Ctr.
Lisa McKenzie PhD MPH, Asst. Research Professor, Colorado School of Public Health
Scott Perry Esq., Deputy Secretary, Office of Oil & Gas Management, PA DEP
The Hon. Bobby Zirkin, Maryland State Senator

2017 Video – Shale Gas Development & Health: Research Updates
Brian Schwartz MD, Johns Hopkins Schools of Public Health, & Medicine/Geisinger and Tara McAlexander MPH, PhD Candidate, Johns Hopkins

 2016 Video – Update on Studies of the Geisinger Environmental Health Institute
Brian S. Schwartz, MD, MS and Sara G. Rasmussen, MHS, PhD Candidate

 2015 Video – New Research on Public Health Considerations
Brian S. Schwartz, MD, MS

Image: The Geisinger Health System = Clinic + Health Plan

Here is Dr. Schwartz’s full Bio from the 2017 health conference program:

Brian S. Schwartz M.D. M.S. is a Professor in the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, where he is Associate Chair of the Department. He is jointly appointed in the Department of Epidemiology in the School of Public Health and in the Department of Medicine in the School of Medicine. He is also a Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Health Services Research in the Geisinger Center for Health Research in Danville, PA. He served as director of the Division of Occupational and Environmental Health from 1996 to 2006 and as director of the Occupational and Environmental Medicine Residency from 1993 to 1998 , and then again from 2016 to the present . He is currently co -director of the Program on Global Sustainability and Health and director of the Geisinger Environmental Health Institute. Dr. Schwartz received a B.S. degree in chemistry from Tufts University; an M.D. degree from Northwestern University Medical School; and an M.S. degree in clinical epidemiology from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. He completed a residency in internal medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, and then was a Mellon Foundation Scholar in Clinical Epidemiology and a fellow in General Medicine at the same institution. He completed a fellowship in occupational and environment al medicine at the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, then joined the faculty there as an Assistant Professor. Dr. Schwartz’s research uses epidemiologic methods to evaluate the public health impacts of occupational and environmental exposures. He has studied the health effects of a variety of chemical and metal toxicants in several large -scale, longitudinal studies. More recently, he has been evaluating the public health implications of energy use, land use, food systems, the built environment, and related sustainability issues. He helped found the Geisinger Environmental Health Institute in 2007 in the Geisinger Center for Health Research. The Institute is engaged in a number of environmental epidemiology studies using electronic health record data from the health system on over 400,000 primary care and over 1,000,000 specialty care patients. Ongoing studies include those of animal feeding operations and risk of antimicrobial -resistant infections (including methicillin -resistant Staphylococcus aureus [MRSA]); the food, physical activity, land use, and social environments and body mass index in children; the built environment and the burden of abandoned coal mine lands and their associations with type 2 diabetes outcomes; and the public health considerations of unconventional natural gas development (Marcellus shale).

Image: Dr. Brian Schwartz

The majority of our legislators in Harrisburg (read: GOP) are obviously tone deaf to anything but lobbyists and political contributions from the oil and gas industry. Our state’s Department of Environmental Protection staff was ‘cut to the bone’ right at the peak of drilling, about 10 years ago, and they still struggle to perform their mission with a reduced workforce. The DEP is fully funded by the Oil & Gas industry and their mission statement reads: The Department of Environmental Protection’s mission is to protect Pennsylvania’s air, land and water from pollution and to provide for the health and safety of its citizens through a cleaner environment. We will work as partners with individuals, organizations, governments and businesses to prevent pollution and restore our natural resources.

Image: Scott Perry — Deputy Secretary of Pa Department of Environmental Protection — Oil & Gas Management. “There is absolutely no support for our agency in the legislature.”

We’re far beyond conjecture when it comes to adverse health effects near fracking, but will that ever be enough to slow —or stop— this runaway train in Pennsylvania?

VIDEO: My Marcellus Shale Memories

MORE: The Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking (the Compendium) is a fully referenced compilation of evidence outlining the risks and harms of fracking.

%d bloggers like this: