Saturday, March 31, 2012

Anecdotal Evidence versus Scientific Evidence: The Battle over the Shale Health Syndrome

The controversy about the health effects of natural gas exploration and development or “fracking” has taken center stage.  It is mostly about anecdotal evidence that correlates to natural gas development activities. Most environmental health experts agree that correlation does not imply causation.  When someone claims that their illness is caused by an activity that is occurring within their proximity, we need to look not only at the biological relationship between the chemicals present but also at the exposure risk- how is the person coming in contact with the said chemical and then rule out or rule in the chemical as the cause.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Protecting Our Water - Protecting Our Health - Baseline Water Tests

If you are on a public water supply and you turn on your faucet for a drink of water, you expect a consistent level of water quality; free of contaminants. If you are on a private well and you turn on your faucet, you really do not know what to expect.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Talking about Shale Health

There is a lot of information online about environmental health issues related to Marcellus Shale Development. Sifting through it and finding credible information is difficult: everyone appears to have some bias or the other. This does not make it any easier to discern the truth from the fiction.

This ongoing controversy surrounding the health impacts of natural gas exploration, especially in New York State has consumed many people's lives; even though New York State has yet to see any of the controversial gas exploration, many folks still considered the development as a potential threat to our picturesque valleys.
Elk Creek and Schenevus Valley

We look across the Stateline into Pennsylvania to give us an idea what our health prognosis will be when and if gas exploration and development arrives. For those who can't make the journey to see firsthand, the internet becomes our window. What we see online coupled with the unknown has triggered an unprecedented scale of people searching for information on environmental health related to shale development.

Turning to the web

According to the Pew Research Center Survey from May 12, 2011, of the 74% of adults polled, 80% have “looked online for information about any of the 15 health topics asked about” which translated to more than half of all adults.  People are turning to the web for information more than any source. While this may have many benefits there are some downsides. For one, not all information online is true, nor is it all reliable nor does it have any value.

Fragments of information drawn from the internet paint an incomplete picture.

Something to think about… Print books and journal articles have keepers of the information; editors, proofreaders and peer reviewers who are competent on the subject matter being published.  Not anyone can write a useful and a well-used text book, however anyone can write an article online and write it on any subject matter- there are no gatekeepers.  People present their personal opinions as fact and substantiate their opinions with opinions found elsewhere online. All this fragmented information is then put together and presented as a researched factual article or story.

Before you take my word for it, ask yourself, is the internet or the print media the best place to find the factual information you are looking for? My preference, for the most part is my well used and well-worn books written by experts and professionals in the field and for the larger part I rely on the people who I have looked up to, the people who have the time tried information; my mentors.