Mail Online peddles fake news about fracking and health

The Mail Online carries a story about fracking affecting the health of millions of Americans, but it's fake news


As ever, all is not quite as it first appears.

If you bother to go and look at the website of the organisation behind this study of population proximity to oil and gas development in the US you'll find that's all it was - an exercise in mapping population distribution in relation to known, producing oil and gas sites ("conventional" and "unconventional").

What seems to have happened is that they've peppered it with links to earlier research so that when announcing it to the media, they have been able to issue a press release that refers to a lot of earlier health impact studies - even though they have previously been debunked or even withdrawn by the study authors themselves.

For example, the reference to birth defects comes from the work of Lisa McKenzie. McKenzie’s attempts to link oil and gas development and birth defects led the head of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), Dr. Larry Wolk, to disavow McKenzie’s use of CDPHE data and issue a statement saying that Colorado health officials “disagree with many of the specific associations” in the study, which rely on “minuscule” statistical differences. He also went on to say that the researchers ignored “many factors” besides natural gas development in their research, and “a reader of the study could easily be misled to become overly concerned.” You can read Dr. Wolk’s full statement here.

It's a blatant attempt at trying to again push this claim that lots of people live close to oil and gas wells and that, if that's you, your health is at risk - even though there's no conclusive proof that's the case. There's more on fracking and health here.

Here's something else to keep in mind: PSE's senior fellow is Professor Antony Ingraffea - a self-confessed anti-fracking activist. Science advisers include Robert Oswald and Susan Bamberger that have previously written critical papers on fracking. And PSE is funded by the Park Foundation, an anti-fossil fuel institution. If a supposedly independent research paper was published by a group connected to the oil and gas industry, fracking opponents would be quick to dismiss it on the ground of bias...yet they conveniently ignore the inherent risk of bias here. Go figure.

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  • Graham Marshall
    So many basic journalism errors.