Imagine finding out just before graduating high school that you have thyroid and lymph-node cancer. Or that what you thought was a common sports injury was actually Hodgkin lymphoma.
For too many kids and young people in the greater Pittsburgh region — at least 67 cases across four rural counties where shale gas operations are active — this nightmare is their reality, and people are demanding answers as to why this is happening.
Many of these stories are coming to light because the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette began an in-depth series tracking the rare childhood cancer cases cropping up locally. In-depth stories like “The Human Toll” and “Are The 27 Cases Of Ewing Sarcoma Near Pittsburgh A Cluster?” chronicled the real life effects of illness, which could be related to the rapid expansion of drilling fracking, fracking waste disposal and other infrastructure buildout.
"What's going on here?"
The mother of one of the affected children is featured in the Post-Gazette’s reporting:
“I think there are too many to be random,” said Carrie Simkovic of Jefferson Township, Greene County, founder of the Colby’s Stars Foundation Inc., which helps children and their families who are dealing with cancer. She started the foundation in 2011 after her son Colby was diagnosed in 2010, at age 8, with a rare nongerminomatous germ cell tumor of the brain. He’s now in full remission.
“There are cancers everywhere,” she said. “When you have a little town like ours and have so many cancers, you have to ask, ‘What’s going on here?’
Yale School of Public Health epidemiologist Nicole Deziel told the Post-Gazette that it’s still very much an open question. She spearheaded a study in 2017 to identify how many of the chemicals used in fracking are cancer-causing. That study analyzed fracking fluids and wastewater, and discovered 55 chemicals in it that are known to or possibly could cause cancer, including leukemia and lymphoma.
It’s a discovery that indicates deeper research needs to be done immediately.
More than 100 organizations call on Governor Tom Wolf to investigate
Food & Water Watch’s Organizing Co-Director Emily Wurth helped organize a letter from over 100 organizations and 800 individuals (including anti-fracking activist and actor Mark Ruffalo and biologist Dr. Sandra Steingraber) calling on Governor Wolf and the state Department of Health to immediately investigate the cancers diagnosed in all counties where shale gas drilling, fracking and infrastructure buildout has occurred.
“We have known for years that fracking presents clear threats to our drinking water, our air quality, and to the health and safety of residents in these sacrifice zones, but this investigative reporting points to an even more serious and heartbreaking toll on Pennsylvanians. Governor Wolf must take immediate action to protect the health and safety of his state.”
Help us make this story known everywhere
If this is happening in one corner of the country, it could be happening in other regions, too. That’s why our letter demanded that Governor Wolf suspend all drilling permits until we understand the connection between fracking and these heartbreaking cancer cases.
When people everywhere stand up for each other and fight like they live here, we can bring the kind of attention that makes a real difference. The letter to Wolf was covered by media outlets across the state, and all of this pressure caused the governor to write a response to activists.
We must get to the bottom of what’s causing the cancer cluster near Pittsburgh — whether the fracking industry likes it or not.
Fight like you live here.