We have posted a number of scientific findings over the past several years linking fracking to serious adverse health consequences (1, 2, 3, 4). These studies have focused on the cocktail of highly toxic chemicals used in the fracking process that have been shown to leach into the groundwater. Now a new study has examined a completely different risk factor associated with fracking: excessive radon leaching into the airspace of the people whose homes are near fracking wells. This is concerning because radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer.
A new study connects the proximity of fracking to higher household concentrations of radon gas, the second leading cause of lung cancer in the US. The researchers used data from the publicly accessible Ohio Radon Information System (ORIS), which the U Toledo Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering started developing more than 25 years ago and maintains to improve public knowledge about indoor radon concentration. Licensed testers collect data each year in basements and first floors of homes in Ohio’s 1,496 zip codes.
The researchers found that the shorter the distance a home is from a fracking well, the higher the radon concentration. Likewise, the larger the distance, the lower the radon concentration: Measuring and geocoding data from 118,421 homes across all 88 counties in Ohio between 2007 and 2014, scientists found that closer distance to the 1,162 fracking wells is linked to higher indoor radon concentrations.
How does fracking trigger radon to enter the airspace of residents?
Radon, which cannot be smelled or seen, begins as uranium found naturally in soil, water and rocks, but transforms into gas as it decays.
Fracking, or drilling the rock formation via hydraulic fracturing, stimulates the flow of natural gas.
What should people do whose homes tested high in radon levels?
There are radon mitigation systems that can be purchased for around one thousand dollars.
Residents near fracking wells whose personal airspace tests high for radon could consider coming together as a group and approaching their city council to request fracking companies be asked to offset some of these costs.
Journal Reference: Yanqing Xu, Mounika Sajja, Ashok Kumar. Impact of the Hydraulic Fracturing on Indoor Radon Concentrations in Ohio: A Multilevel Modeling Approach. Frontiers in Public Health, 2019; 7.
Study: DOI: 10.3389/fpubh.2019.00076 / Overview