TUCSON, Ariz., July 20, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The American Medical Association's "Morning Rounds" for July 19 led with the headline "Fracking linked to asthma attacks in patients who live nearby." The article cites a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine. It quotes a statement made to CNN by the study's lead author, Sara Rasmussen, a PhD candidate: "The study adds to a growing body of evidence that links unconventional natural gas development to adverse health outcomes, such as preterm births, low birth weight and skin and respiratory problems."
"The AMA is officially on board with the assertion that humanity's use of hydrocarbon fuels is imperiling earth's climate," states AAPS executive director Jane M. Orient, M.D. "This article adds to a growing body of flawed attempts to link all types of health problems with energy production."
The actual result of the complex statistical calculations is an odds ratio of 1.5 for the association of residence near a high-activity fracking facility with asthma attacks requiring hospitalization. This means that people who were hospitalized with an asthma attack were 50% more likely to live in an area with high fracking activity, Dr. Orient explains. In epidemiological research this is a very weak association, even if statistically significant. So much depends on where you draw the boundaries, which subjects you exclude, and confounding factors like allergies and occupation.
As the article admits, the study does not show that there is a causal relationship. While it is assumed that asthma and fracking both have something to do with air pollution, the article contains no measures of air quality. Moreover, it has no information about asthma attacks before fracking began, Orient pointed out. Furthermore, asthma is primarily an allergic condition, and association with outdoor air pollution is controversial and at best very weak.
The corresponding author, Brian S. Schwarz, is a fellow of the Post Carbon Institute, which is dedicated to the goal of phasing out hydrocarbon energy.
"This study is an example of using contrived statistics on human health to promote a political agenda," Orient states.
The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) is a national organization representing physicians in all specialties, founded in 1943.
SOURCE Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS)