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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Study Attempts to Link Radon Gas in PA Buildings to Fracking

From the Washington Post:
A new study published Thursday reported a disturbing correlation between unusually high levels of radon gas in mostly residences and an oil and gas production technique known as fracking that has become the industry standard over the past decade. 
Writing in the journal Environmental Health Perspective, researchers analyzed levels of radon — a colorless, odorless gas that is radioactive and has been linked to lung cancer — in 860,000 buildings from 1989 to 2013. They found that those in the same areas of the state as the fracking operations generally showed higher readings of radon. About 42 percent of the readings were higher than what is considered safe by federal standards. Moreover, the researchers discovered that radon levels spiked overall in 2004, at about the same time fracking activity began to pick up. 
Hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" involves drilling 6,500 to 10,000 feet below the surface, and scientists theorize that radon trapped in rocks there is releasedinto the atmosphere.
Read more by clicking here.

Energy in Depth has already responded to the study, pointing out 4 things that people should know about it.  Here's a sample:
Fact #1: Highest concentrations of radon were in areas with no shale development 
In the press release for the report, the lead researcher, Brian Schwartz, claims, “One plausible explanation for elevated radon levels in people’s homes is the development of thousands of unconventional natural gas wells in Pennsylvania over the past 10 years,” yet the report explains, 
“Basement radon concentrations fluctuated between 1987-2003, but began an upward trend from 2004-2012 in all county categories (p < 0.001), higher levels in counties with ≥100 drilled wells vs. counties with none, and with highest levels in the Reading Prong.” (page 2) 
“We identified several predictors of indoor radiation concentrations in Pennsylvania, a state with historically high levels. Water source, building type, test type, test duration, season, weather, county, and geologic unit were associated with indoor radon concentration. When data was aggregated to county categories, on average, Reading Prong counties had the highest indoor radon concentrations.” (page 16; emphasis added) 
The counties in Reading Prong have absolutely no wells—not even conventional. The report also claims, 
“We observed fluctuating radon concentrations throughout the study period; low Marcellus activity counties consistently had lower radon than both high and no Marcellus activity countiesbefore and after drilling began.” (page 16; emphasis added) 
If Marcellus development were to blame for radon levels, wouldn’t areas with development have higher radon levels than areas with no development?  In other words, their own data debunk their claim that higher readings of radon are in areas with oil and gas development.
Read the rest of that article here. 

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