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Fracking Foes Overstate Risk of Cancer by 55,000


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In efforts to ban fracking, anti-fracking activists have stated that a University of Colorado School of Public Health (CSPH) peer-reviewed study found that residents living within one half mile of a gas well stood a 66 percent higher chance of getting cancer than those living further away.  That number is 55,000 times greater than the 0.0012 percent increased risk of cancer found by the study.

The false, dishonest and exaggerated risk of cancer has been stated in public meetings to enrage anti-fracking activists, on the Internet, in letters-to-the-editor, and in testimony to boards and commissions.

An example of this false and misleading information disseminated by fracking opponents is found on the Dallas Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter website which states:

Rigorous epidemiological health studies are few, but the University of Colorado School of Public Health released a peer-reviewed study showing residents who lived within a half mile of a gas well stood a 66% higher chance of getting cancer than those living further away.

The CSPH study titled Human Health Risk Assessment of Air Emissions from Development of Unconventional Natural Gas Resources published in 2012 estimated cumulative cancer risks from the airborne hydrocarbon emissions investigated in the study were 10 in a million for residents living within one half mile of a gas well and 6 in a million for residents living further away.

On the face of it, it would appear the theoretically estimated additional 4 in a million cases result in a 66% increase in the risk of getting cancer.

However, the lifetime cumulative risk of cancer is one in two for males and one in three for females – that is a total of 330,000 in 1,000,000 for females.

The additional theoretical 4 cases per million estimated by the study would result in a total of 330,004 incidents of cancer instead of 330,000, yielding an increased risk of 0.0012 percent.  This number was confirmed in correspondence with Dr. Lisa McKenzie, the lead investigator on the CSPH study.

The exaggerated 66 percent increase stated by fracking opponents to build opposition to fracking and sway government officials to ban fracking overstates the true findings of the study 55,000 times.

The bogus 66% figure has gone viral on the Internet and has been stated by numerous individuals in testimony before the Boulder County Commissioners and the Boulder City Council.

The magnitude of this falsehood brings into question the reliability of the anti-fracking individuals and organizations broadcasting this misinformation.  Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.

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