Geisinger Health System to assess shale health effects

Geisinger Health System is planning to mine its database of hundreds of thousands of medical records to assess whether natural gas development in Pennsylvania has health effects, Bloomberg Business News is reporting.

Gov.  Corbett's Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission had recommended that the state Health Department create a health registry to follow residents who live within a mile of gas drilling and production sites. But funding for it never materialized.

Geisinger is a non-profit group of hospitals in Eastern Pennsylvania, based in Danville.

“There’s all these concerns about what the health risks are but we’re really limited to anecdotal data,” said David Carey, the director of Geisinger’s Weis Center for Research, in an interview with Bloomberg. The database can contribute “real hard, rigorous scientific data” to the debate, he said.

Concerns include the potential for water and air pollution, as well as inhalation of sand dust, according to academics and government officials who spoke at a workshop sponsored by the Institute of Medicine  this week, Bloomberg reported.

The Institute. advisers to the government on health care, is examining whether the fracking process of extracting natural gas from shale rock poses health risks, the wire service said.