A proposed study of people in northern Pennsylvania could help resolve a national debate about whether the natural gas boom is making people sick.
The study would look at detailed health histories on hundreds of thousands of people who live near the Marcellus Shale, a rock formation in which energy companies have already drilled about 5,000 natural gas wells.
If the study goes forward, it would be the first large-scale, scientifically rigorous assessment of the health effects of gas production.
Secret Weapon: A Very Large Database
recent years, there have been lots of anecdotal reports about people
who say they have been harmed by the chemicals associated with gas wells
and the drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
But "there doesn't seem to be a lot of hard data to either support or refute those claims," says David Carey, associate chief research officer of the Geisinger Health System, which provides care to more than 2 million Pennsylvanians.