A Bit Late, Penn Wades Into the Fracking Debate

A team of toxicologists at the University of Pennsylvania are mounting a major study on the health effects of fracking, the controversial method of removing natural gas from deep within the earth.

The university’s Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology has organized a working group with researchers at other top universities includingColumbiaJohns Hopkins and the University of North Carolina to investigate and analyze reports of nausea, headaches, breathing difficulties and other ills from people who live near natural gas drilling sites, compressor stations or wastewater pits.

“There is an enormous amount of rhetoric on both sides,” said Trevor M. Penning, head of the Penn toxicology center and the driving force behind the Environmental Health Sciences Core Center Hydrofracking Working Group. “We felt that because we are situated in Pennsylvania, we had a duty to get on top of what was known and what was not known.”

Dr. Penning has asked 17 centers affiliated with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to take part in different aspects of research on the health effects of fracking. Ten have so far accepted, he said in an interview.

Penning said that the investigation would’ve begun sooner, but that state funding had been difficult to come by with top officials—including Gov. Tom Corbett—being so notably in favor of the process. [New York Times]