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« Our neutral civil service | Main | It's just about the...kerching, kerching »

Dixon of crock green

BH favourite Richard Dixon points us to this article in a dicky-looking journal called Environmental Health Perspectives. Sound the alarm, cries the great man:

New US study shows living near gas wells, including sites, is bad for your health.

The study is here. A few interesting features:

  • The authors suggest the study is "hypothesis generating" not conclusive.
  • The study was funded by green billionaires.
  • The underlying survey was performed with the assistance of an anti-fracking group.


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Reader Comments (33)

Does anyone know of any similar studies entitled "Proximity to Wind Turbines and Reported Health Status"?

Sep 15, 2014 at 11:46 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

I'm guessing that living near all those unwashed protesters could have adverse effects on health.

Sep 15, 2014 at 11:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterNicholas Hallam

Phillip have you see this, published in the same journal in January this year

Sep 15, 2014 at 12:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterArthur Dent

Living near to any industrial site is bad for your health. Heck, living next to farms can be bad what with all the chemicals they spray on the fields getting into the air and harming residents near by. Living next to motorways is bad because of all the noise and fumes. Living next to retail parks is bad because of all the traffic and constant noise. Living in the centre of a city is bad because of all the anti social behaviour and criminal activity. Living is just bad for your health full stop.

Sep 15, 2014 at 1:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterSadButMadLad

Arthur: Thanks for that. I hadn't seen it before. I await the day that the Government recognises the severe health problems caused by wind turbines built too close to dwellings and does what it is supposed to do (i.e. protecting its citizens).

Sep 15, 2014 at 1:06 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Now that I've had a quick skim of the report it is seriously flawed. All the health effects are those *reported* by people, not necessarily those occuring. It is well known that many people report health effects which turn out to be nothing of the sort.The "scientists" didn't look at medical records, only ask people how they felt. Well, if you pick people who have been scared by the scaremongering from the greenies then its not surprising that they will report that their health has been affected - but in reality it will have been the Greenies who are the cause not the drilling.

Sep 15, 2014 at 1:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterSadButMadLad

"Hello, I'm conducting a survey, I wonder if I might ask you a few questions. It's about possible health effects of fracking. Oh, don't look so worried, it doesn't mean that there ARE health problems. This isn't Erin Brockovich. Isn't that a great film? Have you seen it? I love that scene at the end when they're dishing out millions of dollars to all the people affected. It's really heart-warming. Anyway, question number one is......."

Sep 15, 2014 at 1:44 PM | Unregistered Commentermike fowle

Actually, the design has some pretty good features, if it was conducted as described. The strongest design element was that the interviewers were unaware of how close the respondent household was to the nearest well. The apparent impact of proximity to fracking sites is certainly strong enough and consistent enough to warrant closer study.

The major problems with the study are that (a) water samples should have been collected and analyzed along with the face-to-face responses; (b) some way of confirming the nature of and severity of the health symptoms should have been included; and (c) the populations in the three groups were different, with the more distant group being significantly younger and were more likely to have children in the household.

(With respect to (a), the respondents closest to the wells were more likely to complain about the appearance but not the taste of their well-water. With respect to (c), I am puzzled that typical childhood ailments did not apparently impact the results. )

More generally, since previous studies have found that anxiety or stress about environmental hazards produces these symptoms and that those closest to the wells had more concerns about environmental risks, then the statistical analysis should have provided a clearer separation of this sub-population.

I am skeptical of meaningful adverse health effects of fracking, but I certainly would not dismiss these results out of hand.

Sep 15, 2014 at 1:53 PM | Unregistered Commenterbernie1815

Another DickPol. At least they've left the poor wretched Snailbats out this time.


Sep 15, 2014 at 1:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterPointman

I remember the phony scare about EM waves from nearby power lines. However my recent house survey mentioned potential health problems due to power lines. Like the phony acid rain scare or leukemia clusters near nuclear power plant or frankenfoods, too few people ever bother to to inform their tabloid-based initial fears with the later facts.

Sep 15, 2014 at 2:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG



Sep 15, 2014 at 2:37 PM | Unregistered Commenterturnedoutnice

The green mob is in full shakedown mode.

Sep 15, 2014 at 2:39 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Which anti-fracking group was involved in the survey? If one was, then it should surely have been listed in the acknowledgements and methods sections. I do not see any mention of such groups in the article. I also see no mention of who actually did the interviewing, except a vague reference to a "community based group" in the testing of the survey instrument.

Sep 15, 2014 at 3:32 PM | Unregistered Commenterbernie1815

Here is a demolition of one of the references..

"McKenzie never measured exposure to anything, but only distance from listed home residence to gas wells, and that some of her analysis showed benefits from this “exposure.”"


"Many of these pollutants are emitted? Okay, I’ll bite. Which? Which exact pollutants were the women in her study exposed to, and at what concentrations?

Answer: McKenzie doesn’t know. Nobody does. The epidemiologist fallacy has struck again.

The best she could do was to measure how far from a well location each mother lived at the time of birth. Where were those mothers before birth? Same addresses? Did they spend most of their pregnancy near the wells or away on vacation? What genetic characteristics did the people who lived near gas wells have that people who lived near the country club do not? How many women were drunks or druggies?

Answer: McKenzie doesn’t know. Nobody does.

McKenzie arbitrarily (to us readers, anyway) picked a 10-miles radius to label mothers “exposed”—to what, always remember, we don’t know. But doesn’t saying “exposed” sound scary? And being “exposed” to a mere gas well can’t hurt you unless you stub your toe on one.

And then came the wee p-values."

Sep 15, 2014 at 3:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterBruce

Heh, all those tiny earthquakes prevent bigger ones.

Sep 15, 2014 at 4:35 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

"Heh, all those tiny earthquakes prevent bigger ones".

Quite possibly they do, yes. Accumulated strain will always be released, one way or other. There are a couple of sections of the San Andreas fdault which are characterized by, frequent small earthquakes. These sections have never had a major quake in historical times.

Sep 15, 2014 at 4:49 PM | Unregistered Commentertty

Checking the paper, it doesn't make it clear whether or not the authors corrected the p-values for the fact they were applying multiple tests.

On the assumption that they didn't correct for this, and consider each test to be independent, I estimate the probability (and therefore p-value) for application of 12 two-sided tests at the 95% confidence intervals yields the following:

Zero positive results: 54% (0.54)
One positive result: 34% (0.34)
Two positive results: 9.9% (0.099)

So once we account for the multiplicity of tests (again, assuming the authors did not do this), the results they see do not pass at 95% confidence levels.

They do squeak through the 90% confidence level, but of course the confidence level must be set a priori rather than after you see the results (or you will always get "significant" results). The authors set the confidence level at 95%, so their results therefore fail statistical significance tests (i.e. when correctly accounting for multiple tests).

Sep 15, 2014 at 5:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterSpence_UK

I met and interfaced with some very high net worth and privileged investors in the "green energy" arena in the 90's and 2000's. The majority were seeking one thing, to gain a competitive edge and increase their net worth. If that could be positioned behind a façade of perceived socially responsible actions so much the better. Behind closed doors the focus was on the financial status. They are not fools and fully realized that government policies and subsidies were an essential part of the investment returns. They took their money and ran, a long time ago. The green siren call is long gone for the smart money.

Sep 15, 2014 at 6:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Singleton

Above should have been in the Kerching thread

Sep 15, 2014 at 6:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Singleton

One of the report's conclusions:

"In the multivariate model, environmental risk awareness was, however, significantly associated with report of all groups of symptoms."
By George, I do believe they've discovered the reverse placebo effect! Or would this just be the regular placebo effect working to negative effect in a highly emotional and propagandized issue?

My main criticism of the survey methodology is that it didn't sample a control group that drank and bathed in piped-in water that did NOT originate in local water wells, nor did they test the actual water in the subject households for contaminants that they're suggesting could have leaked into the well water of subjects from nearby fracking operations.

Sep 15, 2014 at 6:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterMickey Reno

"study shows living near gas wells, including #fracking sites, is bad for your health"

So is living in a home full of condensation and mould with not enough money to pay your heating bills

Sep 15, 2014 at 6:31 PM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

Mickey & Spence:
Your points are well taken. However, there were reasonable contrast/control groups in the fact that they looked at groups more than 2 km from the fracking site. The data indicates that >1km appears to be sufficient to reduce the effects. The real issue is what are the measurable differences in known contaminants in the well water and air in the different locations. I still do not understand why they did not collect water sample at the same time they did interviews - since collection of the sample is surely a primary cost component.

Sep 15, 2014 at 6:32 PM | Unregistered Commenterbernie1815

This was posted at GWPF, is it true?

CCNet 15/09/14

EU Dismantles Climate Commission Amid Economic Struggles

Climate Agenda - The Biggest Loser Of The New EU Commission

Sep 15, 2014 at 7:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterCC Squid

Bernie1815, while I won't say this study is worthless, but clearly it's authors are less interested in zeroing in on causal factors than in promoting fuzzy correlations that advance a specific anti-fracking agenda. Their admission that they're not really able to make any conclusions is a cover-your-ass type statement that deflects from this lack of rigor.

And frankly, we just don't need any more studies like this. They clarify nothing, while they worry some gullible people unnecessarily (or at best, prematurely). All I'm saying is that if one is scientifically claiming there's a fire, one ought not be blowing smoke.

Sep 15, 2014 at 8:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterMickey Reno

Shock horror from the BBC reporting "Weak wells not fracking caused US gas leaks into water"

Sep 15, 2014 at 8:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterSpeckled Jim

CC Squid:

Climate has been going down the public agenda

Sep 15, 2014 at 8:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

There's a new post up at Frackland after a long period of radio silence that's relevant:

Sep 15, 2014 at 8:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

The data indicates that >1km appears to be sufficient to reduce the effects.

What effects? I do not agree that the study has shown any effects. The putative effect claimed requires acceptance of a 10% false positive rate, which is bonkers. The analysis conducted lacks credible statistical power, and represents little more than a statistical fishing expedition.

Sep 15, 2014 at 11:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterSpence_UK

I'd like to undertake a long-term study entitled "Climate change effects on the taste of beers when sampled in exotic locations"

Sep 15, 2014 at 11:33 PM | Unregistered Commenterjaffa

I'm not saying failed wells don't happen but the likelihood of a failed well spewing dee-plee-ted-youray-nyum are risible - but the mendacious scaremongering continues apace - actually having the neck to repeat debunked claims time and time again...

I suspect that the complainers are subject to more methane exposure from their own rear ends than from their water supplies. Given her historic flirtations with latex I wonder if Dame Viv Westwood could run up some fetching gas collecting PPE?

The scaremongering lies + BS simply piles up. This "study" is from the world of public 'elf - where failed clinicians and assorted rent seekers have no problem manufacturing policy based evidence on a scale that makes the charlatan climateers look like amateurs.

Sep 16, 2014 at 12:40 AM | Registered Commentertomo

You are correct that their multiple testing is problematic, but they recognize that in their Discussion section as a limitation and they do in fact appropriately term their study as hypothesis generation. To be clear, I think the study is flawed and has limited value in itself, but I think it is unreasonable to be totally dismissive. I happen to like their geographic sampling design, though I would like to see a rationale for why 1 km is a useful boundary as opposed to 0.5km or 2 km, etc. And as I noted previously, measurements of the actual contaminants in the well water are essential. Also, it would have been useful to see the actual numbers of respondents reporting any type of problems - since that number may well (as your point of multiple testing suggests) dramatically reduce the actual statistical significance if there is a clustering of ailments.

Sep 16, 2014 at 1:18 AM | Unregistered Commenterbernie1815

Heh, what clusters is suggestibility and paranoia.

Sep 16, 2014 at 2:45 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

3.27+/-3.72 :what does this statistic mean?

Doesn't it mean there is as much occurrence as a random event?

Sep 16, 2014 at 5:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterDoug Proctor

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