Diagnoses of rare childhood cancers could be related to fracking, gas field development

HARRISBURG, November 18, 2019 – Over the last decade at least 67 children in rural southwestern Pennsylvania have been diagnosed with rare childhood cancers, diagnoses that coincided with the rapid development of the Marcellus Shale gas fields across the Allegheny region.

On Monday state Rep. Sara Innamorato, D-Lawrenceville, and state Sen. Katie Muth, D-Montgomery, hosted a lunch briefing on the issue and concerns, and discussed the ongoing childhood cancer crisis with families affected by it.

“I am deeply concerned by the stories of the families that we heard today who have been impacted by these childhood cancers. They deserve answers and they deserve justice,” Innamorato said. “As a member of the House Health Committee, I join them and other organizations in calling for an investigation into the links between gas field development and these rare cancers.”

In addition to discussions with families affected by cancer in southwestern Pennsylvania, the briefing also included Physicians for Social Responsibility Pennsylvania, the Center for Coalfield Justice and the Better Path Coalition.

“We are surrounded by the harmful effects of the oil and gas industry, threatening both our environment and our health. Today’s luncheon provided valuable information to share with others who may not yet know about these dangers,” Muth said. “We are seeing increases in childhood cancer in southwestern Pennsylvania communities, as well as other lung and respiratory conditions across our state.”

The lunch briefing followed a session on fracking’s impacts on health organized by Physicians for Social Responsibility Pennsylvania called PA Health Checkup.

“The PA Health Checkup clearly showed that fracking is dangerous to health. The flowback water is contaminated with radioactive material, toxic chemicals and brine, which cannot be handled by wastewater treatment plants,” said Dr. Walter Tsou, interim executive director of PSR Pennsylvania, an adjunct professor in the Center for Public Health Initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania. “At least 67 childhood cancers have been identified in four counties in southwestern Pennsylvania and the state Health Department refuses to investigate further. The only major change in the area is the rapid growth of gas drilling sites. The need to prevent further harm is clear and fracking cannot be done safely.”