Activists, Washington Co. residents concerned after study explores link between natural gas, cancer

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Pa. — Washington County community members and environmental activists gathered Wednesday night just over a month after a University of Pittsburgh and Department of Health study found children living within one mile of an active natural gas well were five to seven times more likely to develop lymphoma.

“We’re concerned about the results of that study and we think we need changes here in Southwestern Pennsylvania because of those results,” said Jodi Borello, the Washington County Community Organizer for Center for Coalfield Justice.

>>> New study digs into potential link between natural gas production, childhood cancer

The study was prompted by a Channel 11 report on six young men and women in the Cannonsburg area with the rare cancer Ewing sarcoma.

However, it did not find a conclusive link between natural gas production sites and Ewing sarcoma — or any cancers besides lymphoma.

But many, including Janice Blanock, who lost her son Luke to Ewing sarcoma, are critical of the results.

>>> Mom of local teen who died from Ewing sarcoma speaks out on recent study

“I participated in the study. It was a one-time, probably an hour telephone interview. There was no personal interaction, there was no water or soil testing,” Blanock said.

Now, she and other advocates from groups like Center for Coalfield Justice, MAD-FACTS, and Physicians for Social Responsibility are pushing for new legislation and stricter regulation of fracking sites.

Blanock was at the US Capitol last week asking lawmakers to visit sites in Washington County.

“They need to personally see the negative health impacts on what is happening out here,” Blanock said.

Blanock was joined in DC by Lois Bower-Bjornson, who leads what she calls Frackland Tours.

Her Washington County home is surrounded by natural gas production sites, which she has been showing people for the last five years.

She hopes some legislators take her up on her tour offer.

“I wanted them to experience what was really going on from the truck traffic to the well pads, to the compressor stations, to the pipelines being built and drilled and just all of that,” Bower-Bjornson said.

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