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Study Links Fracking to Increased Risk of Asthma Attacks

Joshua Doubek

Hydraulic fracturing — commonly shortened to "fracking' — was first used in Oklahoma nearly 70 years ago.

Now, a new study from Johns Hopkins researchers has linked the practice to an increased risk of asthma attacks.

Study leader Sara Rasmussen says Pennsylvanians living near bigger or larger numbers of fracked natural gas wells are up to four times likelier to have asthma attacks than those living farther away.

"There hasn’t been studies done in other states, but I think it’s possible that this is something we would observe in other states as well," Rasmussen said.

The study says the greatest risk of asthma attacks is during a gas well’s production phase. It accounted for other factors that exacerbate asthma, including family socioeconomic status, whether the patient is a smoker, a family history of asthma and distance to the nearest road, and it still concluded proximity to fracking operations increases the risk of asthma attacks.

The study can’t, however, pinpoint which effect of fracking leads to the increased risk of asthma attacks.

"For next generations of studies, what’s really important is looking more specifically at is it the air pollution that’s responsible for this association or is it stress that’s responsible for this association," Rasmussen said.

Researchers looked at medical records from more than 35,000 asthma patients in Pennsylvania from 2005 to 2012 for the study.

Oklahoma has about 8 percent of the nation's natural gas wells.