Oklahoma is home to thousands of gas and oil wells, which is good for the state’s economy. On the other hand, it is also bad for your health. The more traditional method of most of these wells involves a drill sent into the ground to access reservoirs underneath the surface. The known risks of this conventional method include pollution, harm to animals, oil spills, and more.
Hydraulic fracturing, also referred to as fracking, has recently become the more popular method of drilling. Fracking uses a mix of chemicals, sand, and water to push the fossil fuels out of the rocks underneath the earth’s surface. However, questions surround fracking, including where wastewater runoff goes, if it is healthy to live near drill sites, and does breaking into rock lead to earthquakes? The Oklahoma City oil field injuries attorneys at Cunningham & Mears explore this topic in today’s blog.
New study confirms it is unsafe to live near a drill site
A study released in March 2021 titled “An analysis of the impact of unconventional oil and gas activities on public health: New evidence across Oklahoma counties” reports the adverse health effects from living near a drill site. Of the 77 counties in Oklahoma, the study reviewed data from 76 between the years of 1998 to 2017.
According to the study, the increased number of fracking sites led to an increase in cancer, higher death rates, more respiratory diseases, more occurrences of cardiac arrest, and lower life expectancies. The study specifically states the following:
On average, 1% increase in the number of fracking wells led to a 4.2% reduction in life expectancy. Similar trends were observed for the remaining health indicators, where a 1% increase in the number of fracking wells led to a 6.8% increase in mortality rate, a 7.9% increase in cancer diseases, a 7.3% increase in cardiac diseases, and a 5.9% increase in respiratory diseases.
To put this into perspective when it comes to life expectancy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that the average life expectancy for someone in the United States is 77 years. With the study’s findings of a reduced life expectancy by 4.2 percent, an Oklahoman’s life expectancy is reduced by about three years.
Fracking’s effects on newborns
In another study published in 2019, conducted between 2006 and 2017, researchers found that the closer a mother lives to a fracking site, the more negatively it will affect her baby at birth. Just under 557,000 births were studied in 76 counties in Oklahoma.
Yet another study found that women living near drilling sites were 40 percent more likely to give birth to a baby weighing less than 5.5 pounds at birth. Weighing less than 5.5 pounds at birth can lead to higher instances of developmental issues and illnesses.
Other health issues associated with fracking
Because of the small or non-existent buffer between some residential areas and fracking sites, people can often suffer serious medical issues. Those health issues can include the following:
- Higher risk of premature birth
- Exposure to harmful pollution
- Higher chances of developing respiratory diseases
- Wheezing and reduced lung functions
Can I file a lawsuit due to illness caused by a drilling site?
The short answer is yes. It is not out of the realm of possibility to win one of these lawsuits, either. In fact, a $3 million settlement was made public (due to a computer error) in a case from 2018. Three families living in Washington County, Pennsylvania will receive $3 million from multiple defendants after alleging fracking contaminated their properties and made them sick.
In another case, an entire town in California is fighting oil companies and their drilling operations. The townspeople of Arvin are working to have setbacks and regulations put in place that move drilling sites further away from developed land. Researchers have been able to show that the further a drill site is from developed land, the less the risks to residents.
What to do if you believe your illness was caused by living near a drill site
If you believe that your illness or injury was caused by living near a drill site, you should contact an Oklahoma City attorney immediately. Doing so will help you understand the legal options you have and if you have a valid claim against the drilling company. An attorney will review your medical records, your history living at the current property, and the history of the fracking company in relation to your length of residency. If everything fits the bill, you should be able to move forward with a claim.
Make sure you have extensive documentation of your health issues, including records of every doctor’s appointment, test, or form of treatment you have undergone up to this point. If you have spent money out of your own pocket for treatment or care, be sure to have receipts for these bills so you can be reimbursed as part of the legal claim.
Do not speak to a lawyer or insurance agent that represents the oil company without your own legal representation. Doing so can derail your case before it even gets off the ground. If you have neighbors who became ill due to living close to a drill site, speak with them about their issues. Getting a group of sick residents together to fight the fracking company can be more successful than fighting alone.
Did you suffer injuries in an oil field accident? Were you sickened by living too close to a drill site in Oklahoma City? Call the office of Cunningham & Mears at (405) 232-1212, or submit our contact form to schedule a consultation with an oil field injury attorney today.
Ryan Y. Cunningham is a founding partner of Cunningham & Mears. Mr. Cunningham devotes his practice to protecting the rights of injured Oklahoma residents. In addition to assisting injured clients, Mr. Cunningham endeavors to improve personal injury representation by speaking on issues related to personal injury law to attorneys in continuing legal education courses and to law students. Learn More