Along with several great observations on science and the scientific method from 1965 Nobel Prize awardee physicist Richard Feynman, there are some fundamental rules I keep in mind when reading the scientific literature…
(1) Correlation is not causation.
(2) The published results are often the result of a selection bias where you see published results that meet the researcher's expectations and may ignore a large number of false leads and findings.
(3) Read the actual literature, not the work of a reporter who has interviewed a researcher for the press release or the reporter who has written their story from the press release.
(4) It is unnecessary to publish useful results because all findings end with the same conclusion; more research is needed, send money.
(5) It is not enough to read a paper, especially a pre-print, without considering any validation studies that may confirm or falsify the researcher’s work. Examine the methodology with common-sense challenges.
(6) Decimal point accuracy may be the artifact of the arithmetic, not the accuracy of the instruments, the placement, and use of the instruments, or the precision of the measurements.
(7) True is true if no one believes it; false is false if everyone believes it. (Os Guinness, Time for Truth: Living Free in a World of Lies, Hype, and Spin)
Excerpts from the media center of the University of Rochester Medical Center …
Don’t Go Fracking My Heart: Study Links Hydraulic Fracking with Increased Risk of Heart Attack Hospitalization, Death
“Fracking is associated with increased acute myocardial infarction hospitalization rates among middle-aged men, older men and older women as well as with increased heart attack-related mortality among middle-aged men,” said Elaine Hill, Ph.D., an associate professor in the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) Department of Public Health Sciences, and senior author of the study that appears in the journal Environmental Research. “Our findings lend support for increased awareness about cardiovascular risks of unconventional natural gas development and scaled-up heart attack prevention, as well as suggest that bans on hydraulic fracturing can be protective for public health.”
Natural gas extraction, including hydraulic fracking, is a well-known contributor to air pollution. Fracking wells operate around the clock and the process of drilling, gas extraction, and flaring – the burning off of natural gas byproducts – release organic compounds, nitrogen oxide, and other chemicals and particulates into the air. Additionally, each well requires the constant transportation of equipment, water, and chemicals, as well as the removal of waste water from the fracking process, further contributing to air pollution levels. Fracking wells remain in operation for several years, prolonging exposure to people who work at the wells sites and those who live nearby.
Instead of the typical single source of industrial air pollution, such as a factory or power plant, fracking entails multiple well sites spread across a large, and often rural, geographic area. In 2014, there were more than 8,000 fracking well sites in Pennsylvania. Some areas of the state have a dense population of fracking wells – three Pennsylvania counties have more than 1,000 sites. Contrast that with New York State, which has essentially banned the process of hydraulic fracking since 2010.
Exposure to air pollution is recognized as a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Other research has shown that the intensity of oil and gas development and production is positively associated with diminished vascular function, blood pressure, and inflammatory markers associated with stress and short-term air pollution exposure. Light and noise pollution from the continuous operation of the wells are also associated with increasing stress, which is another contributor to cardiovascular disease.
The research team decided to measure the impact of fracking on cardiovascular health by studying heart attack hospitalization and death rates in 47 counties on either side of the New York and Pennsylvania state line. Using data from 2005 to 2014, they observed that heart attack rates were 1.4 to 2.8 percent higher in Pennsylvania, depending upon the age group and level of fracking activity in a given county.
The associations between fracking and heart attack hospitalization and death were most consistent among men aged 45-54, a group most likely to be in the unconventional gas industry workforce and probably the most exposed to fracking-related air pollutants and stressors. Heart attack deaths also increase in this age group by 5.4 percent or more in counties with high concentrations of well sites. Hospitalization and mortality rates also jumped significantly in women over the age of 65.
Fracking is more concentrated in rural communities, which the authors speculate may further compromise cardiovascular heath due to the trend of rural hospital closures. People who suffer from cardiovascular disease in these areas may be at increased risk of adverse health outcomes, including death, due to less access to care. The authors suggest that more should be done to raise awareness about fracking-related risks for cardiovascular disease and physicians should keep a closer eye on high risk patients who reside in areas with fracking activity. They also contend that the study should inform policymakers about the tradeoffs between public health and the economic activity generated by the industry.
“These findings contribute to the growing body of evidence on the adverse health impact of fracking,” said Alina Denham, a Ph.D. candidate in Health Policy at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry and first author of the study. “Several states, including New York, have taken the precaution of prohibiting hydraulic fracturing until more is known about the health and environmental consequences. If causal mechanisms behind our findings are ascertained, our findings would suggest that bans on hydraulic fracturing can be protective for human health.” <Source>
What did the researchers really say…
Acute myocardial infarction associated with unconventional natural gas development: A natural experimentHighlights
Whereas it is plausible that unconventional natural gas development (UNGD) may adversely affect cardiovascular health, little is currently known. We investigate whether UNGD is associated with acute myocardial infarction (AMI).
[OCS: In this case, does correlation equal causation? Can the findings be extrapolated to other areas of the country involved in unconventional natural gas development and then confirmed by the hospitalizations in those areas?]
In this observational study leveraging the natural experiment generated by New York's ban on hydraulic fracturing, we analyzed the relationship between age- and sex-specific county-level AMI hospitalization and mortality rates and three UNGD drilling measures. This longitudinal panel analysis compares Pennsylvania and New York counties on the Marcellus Shale observed over 2005–2014 (N = 2840 county-year-quarters).
[OCS: I do not see the controls and breakouts for co-morbidities such as obesity, diabetes, unusual environmental stress, smoking, high blood pressure, or the lack of prompt emergency medical care.
Cardiovascular disease is a progressive disease that can develop over years, whereas acute myocardial infarctions are often spontaneous events involving the rupture of plaques within arteries, which block or otherwise impede critical blood flow, followed by necrosis of vital heart muscles and the onset of arrhythmias.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation officially prohibited fracking 2015, concluding a comprehensive seven-year review process that examined potential environmental and health impacts of high-volume hydraulic fracturing.
It is not a conventional experiment but a mathematically-based thought experiment. The phrase “longitudinal study is simply a research design that involves repeated observations of the same variables over periods of time.]
A hundred cumulative wells is associated with 0.26 more hospitalizations per 10,000 males 45-54y.o. (95% CI 0.07,0.46), 0.40 more hospitalizations per 10,000 males 65-74y.o. (95% CI 0.09,0.71), 0.47 more hospitalizations per 10,000 females 65-74y.o. (95% CI 0.18,0.77) and 1.11 more hospitalizations per 10,000 females 75y.o.+ (95% CI 0.39,1.82), translating into 1.4–2.8% increases. One additional well per square mile is associated with 2.63 more hospitalizations per 10,000 males 45-54y.o. (95% CI 0.67,4.59) and 9.7 hospitalizations per 10,000 females 75y.o.+ (95% CI 1.92,17.42), 25.8% and 24.2% increases, respectively. As for mortality rates, a hundred cumulative wells is associated with an increase of 0.09 deaths per 10,000 males 45-54y.o. (95% CI 0.02,0.16), a 5.3% increase.
[OCS: These are totally meaningless conclusions based on correlations that may be statistical artifacts of computation. Men aged 45 or older and women aged 55 or older are more likely to have a heart attack than are younger men and women. Without understanding the individual’s underlying health conditions, lifestyle choices, environment, and access to prompt emergency healthcare, the findings are meaningless and represent a cluster anomaly. To correlate the findings with a number of wells may be beyond worthless.]
Cumulative UNGD is associated with increased AMI hospitalization rates among middle-aged men, older men and older women as well as with increased AMI mortality among middle-aged men. Our findings lend support for increased awareness about cardiovascular risks of UNGD and scaled-up AMI prevention as well as suggest that bans on hydraulic fracturing can be protective for public health.
[OCS: The phrase “is associated” is the equivalent of “correlates with.” So we remind you that correlation is not causation. The suggestion that “bans on hydraulic fracturing can be protective for public health” can be applied to numerous facets of life, and the suggestion is totally meaningless outside of an agenda-driven political context.”
As I see the logic, fracking contributes to air pollution; air pollution is a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease (outweighed by obesity, diabetes, smoking, overwhelming short-term efforts, and stress, etc.); therefore, fracking may be a public health hazard. This is a popular political position of the progressive socialist democrats attempting to gain control over the energy sector by citing public health concerns and global warming.
The lead author,Alina Denham, is a 2021 Ph.D. candidate in the Health Services Research and Policy School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Rochester. Her dissertation, “Understanding the Impact of the ACA Medicaid Expansion on Emergency Department Utilization for Primary Care Sensitive Conditions,” suggests that she is politically aware as does her lengthy diversity statement.
This is not her only work within the energy sector.
Denham A, Willis M, Zavez A, Hill EL. 2019. Unconventional Natural Gas Development and Hospitalizations in Pennsylvania. Public Health, 168: 17-25.
Willis M, Hystad P, Denham A, Hill EL. 2020. Shale Gas Development, Natural Gas Flaring, and Pediatric Asthma Hospitalizations from 2000 to 2010 in Texas, USA. International Journal of Epidemiology, 49(6): 1883-1896.
Amid the prophets of doom, we find a common thread: obey "the science." Unfortunately, "the science" is no longer science but the bastardization of science to support a political narrative and agenda.
We are so screwed.
Note: This is not a comment on the author's ability, work, or study validity. It a common-sense look at the science that appears to justify the progressive socialist democrat’s narrative on fossil fuels.
“Nullius in verba.”-- take nobody's word for it!
“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.”-- George Bernard Shaw
“Progressive, liberal, Socialist, Marxist, Democratic Socialist -- they are all COMMUNISTS.”
“The key to fighting the craziness of the progressives is to hold them responsible for their actions, not their intentions.” – OCS "The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." -- Marcus Aurelius “A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves, and traitors are not victims... but accomplices” -- George Orwell “Fere libenter homines id quod volunt credunt." (The people gladly believe what they wish to.) ~Julius Caesar “Describing the problem is quite different from knowing the solution. Except in politics." ~ OCS
“Describing the problem is quite different from knowing the solution. Except in politics." ~ OCS