Respiratory Problems in Texas

Kaden Bush is a seven-year old boy who lives in Denton, Texas. His mother and doctors believe that his respiratory problems are related to poor air quality related to fracking operations. Denton is located near the Barnett Shale where fracking occurs. There are more than 270 fracking wells within city limits (Free Denton). At the age of five he was diagnosed with respiratory syncytial virus, RSV. RSV is a respiratory virus that infects the lungs and respiratory tract (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Children who have this virus show symptoms of a common cold, including coughing, sneezing and a fever, and some can suffer from lung damage. (Heinkel-Wolfe 2015)

Kaden also has asthma, which is triggered by vehicular and industrial air pollution. Kaden’s doctors report that his lung capacity is at about 85% and that this may be his new normal. His mother restricts the time he spends playing outside because of the poor air quality and its negative effects on his health. There is no evidence to support that Kaden’s health problems are caused by the fracking wells in Denton. However, previous studies mentioned in this chapter evaluating the relationship between fracking and health effects make one wonder if there is a link between Kaden’s respiratory problems and the nearby fracking wells. Kaden is an example of many children in northern Texas who are suffering from respiratory problems (Heinkel-Wolfe 2015).

Asthma is a serious problem in Northern Texas, where fracking takes place. In addition to the 270 plus wells in Denton there are over 12,000 wells that have been fracked in Fort Worth, Texas (Earth Justice). In Northern Texas, children between the ages 6 and 9 are three times more likely to have asthma and asthma attacks send thousands of children to the hospital. In 2013, there were 5,157 asthma-related emergency visits at Children’s Medical Center Dallas. That year they had to hospitalize 1,631 children for their asthma symptoms. In some cases, asthma has resulted in death. Denton County had eight people die from asthma between 2011 and 2013. Many citizens, researchers and health officials believe that these increased incidences of asthma are related to air pollution from fracking operations (Heinkel-Wolfe 2015).