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Nearby fracking linked to early deaths in seniors

Plus, UPMC employees are literally indebted to the health giant.


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February 4, 2022
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Frack findings, gamed system, veto delivery, personal debt, mail check, painkiller push, and Philly as a primetime TV muse. It's Friday.
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A new Harvard study links fracking-related air pollution with early deaths of senior citizens, saying those who lived close to wells showed a higher risk than people who lived farther away, per Inside Climate News.

The study examined Medicare records for 15 million people nationwide and compared them with records of oil and gas activity.

The data showed elderly people who lived close to unconventional oil and gas wells were 2.5% more likely to die early than people who didn’t live as close. Those who lived close and downwind of wells faced the greatest risk.

The findings are especially relevant in Pennsylvania, where gas well pollution was linked to 20 deaths between 2010 and 2017, and where state-sanctioned studies probing possible ties between industry activity and childhood cancer clusters, for example, are ongoing.

THE CONTEXT: The air pollution at the center of the Harvard study could be from truck traffic, emissions from wells, or equipment used at the site during fracking. In short, the connection is clear, but the exact source is not. 

In an interview with StateImpact, Joan Casey, an assistant professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia University, said the risks outlined were "a lot lower" than the risks of living in a house with someone who smokes. "But when you spread it out across hundreds of thousands of people ... it can add up to a lot of excess deaths."

Pennsylvania currently requires oil and gas drilling to be at least 500 feet away from houses and other buildings (a smaller buffer than what's required in other states), but studies indicate the rule has had little impact here overall.

A statement from the American Petroleum Institute said it was reviewing the Harvard study's findings and "committed to following best practices and government regulations to ensure strong public health protections." 
In appreciation of Linda Salley and the African American Museum of Bucks CountyWith love, Ardith T.

In appreciation of the hard work and dedication of the entire Spotlight PA team. Your work is vital. Keep it up! With Love, Chris B.
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"There is increasingly a sense that the party endorsement signals 'establishment,' which in this electorate is not good on either side of the aisle."

—Chatham University political scientist Jennie Sweet-Cushman on why political parties are largely staying out of this year's crucial primaries
»  SHOP SCRUTINY: The Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office is said to be investigating a Palmyra pizza shop for allegedly using its Facebook page to push unproven COVID-19 cures, NBC News reports. The same shop defied Gov. Tom Wolf's business shutdown order early in the pandemic.

» RELATED CASE: Phoenixville Hospital has fired surgeon Edith Bair, who's accused of supplying ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine to people via the Taste of Sicily pizza shop mentioned above, PennLive reports.

» WASTE WATCH: The WHO says tens of thousands of tons of medical trash related to the pandemic response are straining waste management systems worldwide and "threatening human and environmental health."

» NEW FINDINGS: A study published in the peer-reviewed Obstetrics & Gynecology journal says, yes, COVID-19 vaccines can temporarily lengthen a menstrual cycle, but experts say it's not a cause for concern.

To find a COVID-19 vaccine, use the federal government's online tool, call 1-800-232-0233, or text your zip code to 438829 (GETVAX).
A group of ducks floating along on Bullfrog Pond in Derry Township. Thanks for another photo, Robert N.! Send us your gems. Use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
OFF DUTY: The number of Philadelphia police out on injury claims has more than doubled since 2017, and the percentage that group represents is vastly higher than in other cities. But The Inquirer found some may be gaming the system, with reports of "injured" officers working strenuous side jobs, launching new businesses, or playing softball — all as department officials complain of being short-staffed.

VETO VOW: Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday made good on his pledge to veto a Republican-ushered bill that would impose financial consequences on municipalities that try to toughen up their local gun laws. The legislation would make towns and cities responsible for all legal costs in successful court challenges of such restrictions, per Capital-Star. Wolf called the proposal "an attack on local governments."

EMPLOYEE DEBT: While UPMC generates hundreds of millions of dollars in profits each year, some employees, even those equipped with UPMC insurance plans, say they've been saddled with debt after receiving medical care from the industry giant, the Post-Gazette reports. A union representing UPMC workers says the issue is far more pervasive there than at other large hospital systems. 

HEARING DATE: Pennsylvania’s highest court will hear arguments on the constitutionality of Pennsylvania's expanded, no-excuse mail voting law on March 8 in Harrisburg. The law was struck down by a lower court last month following a challenge led, in part, by Republican lawmakers, many of whom supported the law in 2019. The stakes of the case are high, especially in a pivotal election year. 

RX SUIT: Federal authorities have sued a Philadelphia pharmacy they say "dispensed unparalleled quantities of opioids and other controlled substances into the Philadelphia community." The suit alleges Verree Pharmacy in Fox Chase was the largest buyer of Oxycontin in the state and illegally distributed the drug, which helped turbo-charge the city's dire and ongoing opioid crisis
HOME AID: Demand for Pennsylvania's pandemic-related homeowners assistance fund is so high the website crashed the same day it started taking applications, per WHYY. Homeowners can receive up to $30,000 each.

BORDER TOWN: On the other side of Pennsylvania's border with Delaware sits the Village of Arden: "an idyllic, 'single tax' arts community that's lasted over 120 years," Billy Penn reports. One resident called it a prefab commune.

BLACK HISTORY: Richard Allen was born in Philadelphia and into enslavement. He went on to found the African Methodist Episcopal Church — the nation's first independent Black denomination — in 1794.

OPEN, SHUT: Remember that public viewing area at the site of Pittsburgh's bridge collapse that we told you about last week? Well, it closed two days after opening and will stay closed indefinitely as equipment moves in.

IMITATING LIFE: Quinta Brunson, the creator and star of ABC's Abbott Elementarywas surprised on Jimmy Kimmel Live! this week with a visit from the sixth grade Philadelphia teacher who inspired the show. (And there's plenty more Philly cred where that came from.)
Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag.

*This week's theme: Words that start with the letter "B"

Yesterday's answer: Bellwether

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Irene R., Don H., David I., Eddy Z., Mike B., Eric F., Susan N.-Z., Keith F., Michelle T., Doris T., Anthony S., Kimberly S., Judith D., John F., Cindy G., Barbara F., Elaine C., Donna D., John A., Brandie K., Steve D., Vicki U., George S., Beth T., Alan V., Al M., Pat B., Elizabeth W., Karen W., Susan D., James B., Susan R., Patricia R., Fred O., Wendy A., John P., Daniel M., Dianne K., Michael K., Nancy S., Chris M., Marty M., Diane C., Bill S., Ted W., Suzanne S., Kim C., Rachel K., Starr B., David W., Barbara O., Craig E., and William M.
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