Someone Please Tell Us: How are Fracking and Sexually Transmitted Infections Related?
Anti-fracking groups frequently recycle repetitive and stale claims against fracking, but they recently surprised us with a new angle.
Researchers at the Yale School of Public Health published a study claiming fracking has been linked to sexually transmitted infections (STIs), specifically gonorrhea and chlamydia, in Texas.
Yes, you read that correctly.
Why did researchers decide to spend their time attempting to find a relationship between fracking and STIs? Because they hate the oil and gas industry. Oh, sorry. We meant they did it for science.
Researchers studied rates of STIs in Texas, Colorado and North Dakota, yet only found a correlation between fracking and STIs in Texas. According to the study, they found “no statistically significant associations for any STIs” in the other two states – which also happen to be major centers of oil and gas production.
The researchers focused on rates of gonorrhea and chlamydia over a 16-year period in counties with shale drilling operations and compared the results to counties without shale drilling. The study reported “no observed association between shale drilling activity and rates of syphilis.” So, fracking is only correlated with *some* STIs?
The shale drilling counties saw “increases in nonlocal, specialized workers” which “have been suggested to influence rates of STIs.” Translation: Fracking operations in Texas provide more jobs. These jobs bring nonlocal workers to the county. More workers lead to more sexual activity. And increased sexual activity raises the rate of STIs. Therefore, fracking causes more STIs. But only in Texas. Not in North Dakota or Colorado. Did the authors compare shale counties with other similar counties in Texas? No.
Did they compare them with any in other states that have experienced rapid population growth? Nope.
But surely the media or the authors at least mentioned that nationally there’s also been more cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea? Not a chance..
Figure 1: Chlamydia — Rates of Reported Cases by Sex, United States, 2000–2017
Instead of key data, they did include this safety net statement in their report, though: “Future studies, including surveys of the sexual behaviors of workers, sexual behaviors of community members, and sexual mixing patterns could shed additional light on the possible mechanism underlying observed associations.”
If you’re rolling your eyes right now, don’t worry because so are we.