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Last week, National Public Radio (NPR) took a deeper look into the natural gas boom in the U.S. The special series, The Fracking Boom: Missing Answers, questions what the gas boom is doing to the air and water in communities where fracking has become a household name.
The NPR series explores the question "Are these wells creating harmful pollutants?" and dives deep to identify issues caused from the more than 200,000 wells drilled in the U.S. in just under a decade.
On May 14, Christopher Joyce's report, With Gas Boom, Pennsylvania Fears New Toxic Legacy, honed in on the impacts of drilling in the Pennsylvania Marcellus formation, including the unexpected nuisance of truck traffic, what to do with the toxic wastewater from fracking, water contamination from spills at well sites and groundwater contamination. With more than 5,000 new wells drilled in Pennsylvania since 2008, residents are deeply concerned about this "new toxic legacy," and the impact fracking has on human health and the environment.
On May 15, Rob Stein's report, Sick From Fracking? Doctors, Patients Seek Answers, identified the concerns of residents living near fracking sites and their fear of the unknown impacts natural gas drilling will have on the health of their community. From gusts of fumes occupying their airways and buildings to mysterious health-related symptoms, doctors and residents living in fracking war zones expound on their concerns.
Also on May 15, Elizabeth Shogren's report, 'Close Encounters' With Gas Well Pollution, exposed the concerns in Silt, Colorado, where natural gas drilling well pads have taken over the landscape. Here again, concerns for the community's health are revealed as residents experience "itchy eyes, scratchy throats and getting sick to their stomachs." In this extensive report, it becomes clear that it's time to connect the dots and officially identify the true impacts of hydraulic fracturing on communities before more people are put into harms way.
On May 16, Jon Hamilton's report, Medical Records Could Yield Answers on Fracking, explored the health impacts on residents living above the Marcellus Shale formation in northern Pennsylvania that could help resolve the national debate on whether fracking is making people sick. The report begins with a disturbing image of William Reigle, a Pennsylvania resident with fibrosis who is concerned that a nearby fracking well may be aggravating his disease, while he sits in a doctor's office with his nose pinched and blows into a tube testing his airway capacity. The piece focuses on the importance of letting the facts tell the story by evaluating detailed health histories of hundreds of thousands of people living near these fracking sites.
Also on May 16, Jon Hamilton's report, Town's Effort to Link Fracking and Illness Falls Short, revealed that scientists are not convinced that the evidence collected blaming health problems on fracking—from nosebleeds to cancer—is the cause. However, it's very clear that the small town of Dish, Texas—population 225 and 35 miles north of Fort Worth—has not been the same since it became the epicenter of the fracking boom.
On May 17, Elizabeth Shogren's report, Fracking's Methane Trail: A Detective Story, followed the work of Gaby Petron, an air pollution investigator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). When Petron saw high levels of methane in readings from a NOAA observation tower north of Denver, she had to determine why there was an increase and where it came from. The results of her observations, which were published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, suggest that methane, a potent greenhouse gas, is leaking at at least twice the rate reported by the industry. The report makes clear that "scientists need to play a much bigger role in measuring air pollution from natural gas production—at well sites and compressor stations, and over entire gas fields."
Also on May 17, Susan Phillips's report, Pennsylvania Doctors Worry Over Fracking 'Gag Rule,' explained the new law in Pennsylvania that "grants physicians access to information about trade-secret chemicals used in natural gas drilling... But the new law also says that doctors can't tell anyone else—not even other doctors—what's in those formulas. It's being called the 'doctor gag rule.'" The piece details a case study in which a boy living near natural gas drilling activity is experiencing nosebleeds, liver damage and has a strange skin lesion. Dr. Amy Pare explains that in order to determine what is causing the problems with her patient, it's critical to know exactly what he has been exposed to. Having access to that information through this new law is great, but it's unclear if doctors can legally share this information with their patients and public health officials.
After reading and listening to this well-researched NPR series on the U.S. fracking boom, it's very clear to me that referring to natural gas as a cheap, homegrown solution to our nation's energy crisis is absurd. The promise of economic recovery, job growth and community wealth is an illusion that the fossil fuel industry's propaganda machine is selling to the American people. Sacrificing human health and the environment in the name of corporate profits is criminal. We need to educate our fellow Americans about the risks associated with continued use of fossil fuels and support policies that will transition our nation to relying on cleaner, renewable sources of energy.
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Cabin fever is often associated with being cooped up on a rainy weekend or stuck inside during a winter blizzard.
In reality, though, it can actually occur anytime you feel isolated or disconnected from the outside world.
What is cabin fever?<p>In popular expressions, cabin fever is used to explain feeling bored or listless because you've been stuck inside for a few hours or days. But that's not the reality of the symptoms.</p><p>Instead, cabin fever is a series of negative emotions and distressing sensations people may face if they're isolated or feeling cut off from the world.</p><p>These feelings of isolation and loneliness are more likely in times of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/yes-covid-19-cases-are-rising-why-you-still-need-to-practice-social-distancing" target="_blank">social distancing</a>, self-quarantining during a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/what-is-a-pandemic" target="_blank">pandemic</a>, or sheltering in place because of severe weather.</p><p>Indeed, cabin fever can lead to a series of symptoms that can be difficult to manage without proper coping techniques.</p><p>Cabin fever isn't a recognized psychological disorder, but that doesn't mean the feelings aren't real. The distress is very real. It can make fulfilling the requirements of everyday life difficult.</p>
What are the symptoms?<p>Symptoms of cabin fever go far beyond feeling bored or "stuck" at home. They're rooted in an intense feeling of isolation and may include:</p><ul><li>restlessness</li><li>decreased motivation</li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/irritability" target="_blank">irritability</a></li><li>hopelessness</li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/unable-to-concentrate" target="_blank">difficulty concentrating</a></li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/irregular-sleep-wake-syndrome" target="_blank">irregular sleep patterns</a>, including sleepiness or sleeplessness</li><li>difficulty waking up</li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/lethargy" target="_blank">lethargy</a></li><li>distrust of people around you</li><li>lack of patience</li><li>persistent <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/depression-vs-sadness" target="_blank">sadness or depression<br></a></li></ul>
What can help you cope with cabin fever?<p>Because cabin fever isn't a recognized psychological condition, there's no standard "treatment." However, mental health professionals do recognize that the symptoms are very real.</p><p>The coping mechanism that works best for you will have a lot to do with your personal situation and the reason you're secluded in the first place.</p><p>Finding meaningful ways to engage your brain and occupy your time can help alleviate the distress and irritability that cabin fever brings.</p><p>The following ideas are a good place to start.</p>
When to get help<p>Cabin fever is often a fleeting feeling. You may feel irritable or frustrated for a few hours, but having a virtual chat with a friend or finding a task to distract your mind may help erase the frustrations you felt earlier.</p><p>Sometimes, however, the feelings may grow stronger, and no coping mechanisms may be able to successfully help you eliminate your feelings of isolation, sadness, or depression.</p><p>What's more, if your time indoors is prolonged by outside forces, like weather or extended shelter-in-place orders from your local government, feelings of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety" target="_blank">anxiety</a> and fear are valid.</p><p>In fact, anxiety may be at the root of some cabin fever symptoms. This may make symptoms worse.</p><p>If you feel that your symptoms are getting worse, consider reaching out to a mental health professional who can help you understand what you're experiencing. Together, you can identify ways to overcome the feelings and anxiety.</p><p>Of course, if you're in isolation or practicing social distancing, you'll need to look for alternative means for seeing a mental health expert.</p><p>Telehealth options may be available to connect you with your therapist if you already have one. If you don't, reach out to your doctor for recommendations about mental health specialists who can connect with you online.</p><p>If you don't want to talk to a therapist, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/top-iphone-android-apps" target="_blank">smartphone apps for depression</a> may provide a complementary option for addressing your cabin fever symptoms.</p>
The bottom line<p>Isolation isn't a natural state for many people. We are, for the most part, social animals. We enjoy each other's company. That's what can make staying at home for extended periods of time difficult.</p><p>However, whether you're sheltering at home to avoid dangerous weather conditions or heeding the guidelines to help minimize the spread of a disease, staying at home is often an important thing we must do for ourselves and our communities.</p><p>If and when it's necessary, finding ways to engage your brain and occupy your time may help bat back cabin fever and the feelings of isolation and restlessness that often accompany it.</p>
Pope Francis spoke about the novel coronavirus, suggesting that the global pandemic might be one of nature's responses to the man-made climate crisis.
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