The Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project is pushing for the implementation of a health registry related to unconventional oil and gas development in Pennsylvania.
The McMurray-based group hosted a national workshop in Chicago, Ill., last week to explore its options. The workshop was attended by 24 people from 11 states and the District of Columbia who work for nongovernmental organizations, health care and public health, the federal government and academic institutions.
Raina Rippel, director of EHP, said no agency at the national, state or local level has systematically tracked the potential health impacts associated with natural gas drilling.
“Community members and workers have serious concerns and the right to know how this industry is impacting their health in both the short and long run,” Rippel said in a news release. “Significant preliminary research indicates health problems exist.”
Rippel said the data would be used for long-term research and policy making.
Beth Weinberger, research and communications consultant for EHP, discussed a paper she wrote in support of a registry. The paper attempts to show a link between gas extraction and contamination, and it provides an overview of existing registries for other purposes.
Participants in the workshop agreed they would need to create a national roster of impacted residents. Residents who believe their health has been affected by natural gas drilling could submit input, demographics and contact information, which would allow a follow-up investigation by a public health official or researcher.
Dr. Pouné Saberi, adjunct faculty at the University of Pennsylvania, said public health agencies currently have an “appallingly limited” amount of clinical data on the health and community impacts of the industry.
“The outcomes of this meeting promise to move us in a positive direction,” she said.