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Study Attempts to Link Oil And Gas Drilling to Cancer

Is living near an oil well dangerous for human health? A recent study from the University of Colorado has attempted to show how it could be.

Is living near an oil well dangerous for human health? A recent study from the University of Colorado has attempted to show how it could be.

After studying data from the research, the scientists found a higher prevalence of one type of cancer — lymphocytic leukemia — in those aged 5-24 who lived in areas with high levels of oil and gas drilling.

The state’s Health Department has urged caution at jumping to conclusions based on the results, however, saying that the methodology used in the study was flawed.

For the study, published last week in a peer-reviewed multidisciplinary journal PLOS ONE, the researchers relied on a state registry of cancer cases. Overall, the team looked at 743 cases reported between 2001-2013 and then compared the location of those cases to oil and gas drill sites. Yet, the statistical link between drilling and cancer was based on just 16 cases. 

According to the Denver Post, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment criticized the study’s limitations, design and data analysis.

“I don’t think the study supports the conclusion that they made,” he said.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association also threw some shade on the study, saying in a statement: “researchers shouldn’t be in the game of scaring people.”

One of the study’s main authors admitted that the study had limitations and said the team did the best they could with the data they were given by state officials. The authors stated that they suspect that the presence of benzene — a known carcinogen — near drilling sites could be the culprit behind any uptick in cancer cases.

This isn’t the first time the state’s Public Health department and this team have publically clashed over research results.

In 2014, the same researchers released a study that examined 124,842 births over 13 years in rural Colorado and linked the potential for congenital heart defects and other issues with mothers living within 10 miles of natural gas wells. 

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