CECIL TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Ewing’s sarcoma is a rare form of cancer that typically strikes children and young adults. According to an expose published by the Wall Street Journal, only about 250 children in the United States receive the diagnosis each year. However, Washington County, Pennsylvania, which is home to the most Marcellus Shale gas wells in the commonwealth, is also home to an abnormally high number of Ewing’s sarcoma diagnoses. While the Pennsylvania Department of Health did not think that the relatively large number of Ewing’s sarcoma cases popping up in the southwest corner of the state was significant, the parents of children who fought cancer and lost or are currently battling the disease, have another opinion.
Ewing’s sarcoma is a rare cancer that affects the bone and soft tissue surrounding the affected area. Studies trying to link cancer with shale fracking proved fruitless. However, another study will start soon designed to examine whether a link exists. Another study recently commissioned will explore the connection, if any, to fracking at the Marcellus Shale sites and asthma, headaches, and premature births. Researchers from Johns Hopkins have found such a link in other parts of the state. The state of Colorado has learned that people living within 2,000 feet of a well and experience gas exposure suffer from nosebleeds and headaches.
The community demands an explanation for the high number of cancer cases, especially within one small school district. From 2006 to 2017, 31 people in four counties in the southwest of Pennsylvania received a diagnosis of Ewing’s sarcoma. The number represents a 40 percent jump from 1995 to 2005 in the same geographic location before the wells began pumping gas.
Gases such as arsenic and benzene are suspected of having a link to cancer. However, those gases are often found in workplaces rather than in the community, making the link more challenging to make. Scientists are quick to point out that a correlation is not causation. However, for those families living with the pain of a deceased child or watching a child struggle to beat cancer, some explanation for the disease is better than none at all.
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