The air pollutants associated with gas drilling may be affecting people with asthma and other lung problems, but on NPR.org, Jon Hamilton quotes Pennsylvania health insurance CEO David Carey as saying, "There doesn’t seem to be a lot of hard data to either support or refute those claims." His insurance company’s database includes tens of thousands of people with asthma.
A study of people in northern Pennsylvania could answer the question about whether the natural gas boom is making people sick. It will 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.
Researchers want to start by gathering data on asthma patients because they are very sensitive to ground-level ozone, a pollutant that often forms near gas wells. About 6% of people in the US have asthma. Hamilton quotes Paul Simonelli, a doctor who treats some of the patients covered by the insurance company, as saying, "so we’re talking about an enormous number of people who are potentially at risk to have their conditions worsened by these exposures."
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