Put A Ring On It
Margaret Lu
Sir Winston Churchill Secondary
Floor Location : M 062 V

Hydraulic Fracturing (fracking) is a method of extracting oil or methane from underground by using a hydraulically pressurized mixture composed of water, sand, and chemicals to fracture shale in order to release and extract pockets of the oil/methane.

Ever since horizontal hydraulic fracturing was implemented as a method for oil/methane extraction, there has been controversy because dangerous chemicals used in horizontal fracking fluids may escape and contaminate the air and/or ground water (which local citizens breathe and drink). The most important dangerous chemicals are benzene and its relatives, as they mutate DNA and may ultimately cause cancer or birth defects.

Therefore, I chose to conduct a meta-analysis of cancer statistics from 26 Texas counties. I chose to analyze Texas mostly since Texas is home to the Barnett Shale, the largest active fracking complex in North America. In this study, I first researched the literature regarding statistics on gas-well-leakage, and correlations between fracking activity and cancer rates. Then, I collected raw statistics on county-by-county fracking activity, and cancer rates in fracked and unfracked counties. After that, I analyze the above data to discover possible correlations between fracking and adverse health effects in the fracked regions compared with unfracked control regions.

My results were significant, and shows high correlations between fracking activity and cancer. However, to address some sources of errors, the small sample sizes in Texas counties with small populations might have caused high deviations from the average range. In addition, some counties (e.g., El Paso) have high rates of undocumented immigration from Mexico. These immigrants may not be counted in the population data, but might show up in the cancer statistics, distorting the results. Furthermore, there are other causes of cancer besides fracking pollution, which may differ from county to county, such as smoking rates, and natural background radiation. These might distort the results as well.