TEDX podcast: Can environmental health research help communities impacted by fracking?

September 12, 2018

oil and gas drilling, public health

Photo illustration by Tim McDonnell

At the Garfield County Energy Advisory Board meeting on September 6, state O&G liaison Sean Hackett said the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) does not recommend blood tests to detect VOCs because the results don’t indicate the source of the contamination. The state prefers air quality monitoring.

Blood tests for chemicals not advised, official says

State health officials are discouraging people living in areas of oil and gas development from getting their blood tested for possibly related pollutants, saying environmental monitoring is the better way to respond to such concerns.

“Air monitoring around those oil and gas sites really is the best approach,” Sean Hackett, oil and gas liaison for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said at a recent Garfield County Energy Advisory Board meeting.

The department’s position comes as some residents living near drilling in western Colorado, on the Front Range and elsewhere continue to have their blood tested for benzene, a carcinogen, and other volatile organic compounds that are produced during oil and gas development.

Hackett said the health department doesn’t recommend getting such tests done, due to a number of limitations associated with them. For one, they just show if VOCs are in the body, but not where they come from …

Allow me to translate the government-speak. What he’s really saying is that the state won’t recognize your blood tests when they show positive for VOCs.

Of course there’s no mention about the urinary metabolites testing alternative. Nor did he apparently talk about the evidence of environmental pollution from VOCs provided by infrared imaging with a FLIR camera.

Communities like Battlement Mesa and Erie can conduct their own research, with a little help.

The latest TEDX podcast asks:

Can environmental health research help communities impacted by fracking?

Episode 10:  Dr. Gregory Howard answers the question. He describes various types of health studies, focusing on what a community should consider before beginning a study. He explains how study design is influenced by the goals and needs of the community and the decision makers they are trying to reach, and discusses challenges of doing such research.

Dr. Gregory Howard is an environmental public health scientist and consultant with a broad background in epidemiology, toxicology, and research translation. His main interest focuses on how we can use scientific information to create effective chemicals policy that protects the environment and public health. He teaches regularly at Boston University and Brown University.

Click here to listen to the 12-minute podcast.

Health Studies Guide

For decades, environmental health scientists at Boston University have worked with community groups to address environmental health problems. We wrote the Health Studies Guide to assist community groups and individuals who think that some form of environmental health investigation or health study may be useful or necessary in their community. Readers of this guide may have concerns about drinking water contamination, or the relationship between emissions from a power plant and asthma in their community. People may suspect that a certain disease in their community, such as lupus, has an environmental cause or trigger. All of these are reasons for wanting a health study. Hopefully this Guide will help readers think this through.

Click here to read the Health Studies Guide.

Catch up on all the podcasts, webinars, and teleconferences at the TEDX Oil & Gas Program.

Submit a question to Fracking and Health: Ask an Expert.

The FrackHealth Database catalogues peer-reviewed research on health effects associated with unconventional oil and gas drilling, with search filters for the location of the study, type of health effect, exposure source and more.

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