An environmental project is providing some of the first specific numbers about people who may have been affected by the boom in natural gas drilling. Here's what the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project has found in Washington County south of Pittsburgh and how experts and the industry are reacting to it:
— Air pollution seems to be more of a threat than water pollution. Only seven of 27 cases of people who believed they were hurt by nearby natural gas activities involved water pollution. The rest involved air pollution. The numbers don't represent a full survey of the area, just cases so far with plausible exposures.
— Huge processing stations that push gas into national pipelines might be more of a problem than the drilling sites themselves. One of the worrying findings of the project was extremely high levels of air pollution found inside two homes about 1,000 feet from a large gas processing station.
— One expert not involved in the findings said more work needs to be done to confirm that residents were affected by natural gas activity and not by other factors, but he called the project an "important start."
— The gas drilling industry says that in general air quality has sharply improved because of natural gas since it emits far less pollution than coal-fired power plants.