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$1M given to study health effects of drilling

| Monday, Feb. 18, 2013, 8:21 p.m.

DANVILLE — A Pennsylvania health company says it has gotten a $1 million grant to study possible health impacts of natural gas drilling on the Marcellus shale.

Geisinger Health System of Danville said on Monday that the Degenstein Foundation awarded the money to help underwrite what it called a “large-scale, scientifically rigorous assessment” of the drilling.

Most of the money will be used for data-gathering, and some will go toward developing studies of the data. Officials said they expect other funders to come forward.

The study is to look at detailed health histories of patients who live near wells drawing from the Marcellus shale formation. The boom in drilling has generated jobs and billions of dollars in revenue for companies and individual leaseholders, but it has raised health concerns.

Geisinger Health Systems, Guthrie Health of Sayre and Susquehanna Health of Williamsport will collaborate on planning and execution of the study, including developing a health surveillance network aimed at assessing and reporting on data gathered from electronic health records.

“The goal is to create a cross-disciplinary, integrated and sharable repository of data on environmental exposures, health outcomes and community impacts of Marcellus shale drilling,” the announcement said. “Some of the potential health effects that are likely to be investigated first include asthma, trauma and cardiovascular disease.”

Preliminary results could be available within the next year, while other findings are expected in five years and during the next two decades.

Many federal and state regulators say hydraulic fracturing is safe when done properly, but environmental groups and some doctors assert that regulations still aren't tough enough.

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