Oklahoma oil experts sound off on new study linking fracking to asthma complications

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OKLAHOMA CITY – New evidence has linked fracking to complications for children and adults living with asthma, according to a new study.

A study in the Journal of American Medical Association looked at fracking wells in Pennsylvania and evaluated more than 35,000 patients and their exposure to oil and gas drilling.

Our crews talked with one metro doctor who said exposures in the air in general can cause conditions to react.

“At the end of the day, asthma is an airway inflammation problem,” said Dr. Jason Sigmon, with Northwest Allergy Clinic.

It’s the air quality this doctor said we should be worried about, not specifically fracking.

“Any kind of industry, any type of business, even agricultural, activities, mowing fields and plowing and harvest times of year. Things that impact air quality will impact asthma patients,” said Dr. Sigmon.

Dr. Jason Sigmon said there have been studies that claim even tornadoes disturb the atmosphere, worsening conditions for asthma sufferers.

However, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins, they looked at fracking wells in Pennsylvania and this is what they discovered.

After evaluating more than 35,000 patients, people with asthma living close to larger wells or near a greater number of wells are more likely to have asthma attacks.

The Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association responded to the study with the following statement:

“Hydraulic fracturing is a safe, proven process that has been used in Oklahoma for the past 70 years. It is well-regulated at the state level by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission and is essential to the production of oil and natural gas in our state. In Oklahoma we understand the oil and natural gas industry and its dedication to environmental stewardship. As oil and natural gas production moves into states that have traditionally seen little to no energy exploration, like Pennsylvania where this study was conducted, a lack of understanding about the drilling process and the industry as a whole leads to confusion and, in many cases, fear. Anti-oil and natural gas activists, like this study’s lead researcher, prey upon that fear to promote their own efforts. This study does not establish that hydraulic fracturing directly caused or worsened asthma, and the authors point out that some of the worst cases identified were of patients who were older, current smokers and obese.”

Doctors advise folks to be proactive and know what’s going on in your surroundings.

“Whether it’s fracking, whether it’s allergens in the air or any other type of air quality issue, they need to always be aware,” said Sigmon.

The study did not show that fracking directly leads to asthma symptoms of if patients exposed to fracking have worse reactions than those exposed to other industrial activities.