Friday, December 12, 2014

When the Media Get Science Research Wrong, University PR May Be the Culprit

The Chronicle of Higher Education
December 10th, 2014



In the midst of a renewed national debate over fracking, a study last month from Colorado State University at Fort Collins and the University of Colorado at Boulder gave the public welcome assurances that the oil-extraction technology is safe.
The study, according to a summary prepared by the University of Colorado and repeated widely in the news, found the major group of chemicals used in fracking to be as safe as common consumer items like toothpaste and ice cream.
That should "give comfort" to anyone alarmed by the reported dangers of the controversial method, also known as hydraulic fracturing, the Colorado Oil & Gas Association said in a statement.
The problem, according to a lead author of the study: That’s not what the study actually found.
Instead, the research was an effort just to test a new method of chemically analyzing the fluids that are pumped into the ground during the fracking process, said the author, Thomas Borch, an associate professor of environmental chemistry and biogeochemistry at Colorado State. The study drew very limited conclusions, if any, about the actual safety of those chemicals, Mr. Borch said.

In the midst of a renewed national debate over fracking, a study last month from Colorado State University at Fort Collins and the University of Colorado at Boulder gave the public welcome assurances that the oil-extraction technology is safe.
The study, according to a summary prepared by the University of Colorado and repeated widely in the news, found the major group of chemicals used in fracking to be as safe as common consumer items like toothpaste and ice cream.
That should "give comfort" to anyone alarmed by the reported dangers of the controversial method, also known as hydraulic fracturing, the Colorado Oil & Gas Association said in a statement.
The problem, according to a lead author of the study: That’s not what the study actually found.
Instead, the research was an effort just to test a new method of chemically analyzing the fluids that are pumped into the ground during the fracking process, said the author, Thomas Borch, an associate professor of environmental chemistry and biogeochemistry at Colorado State. The study drew very limited conclusions, if any, about the actual safety of those chemicals, Mr. Borch said.
- See more at: http://chronicle.com/article/When-the-Media-Get-Science/150763/#sthash.gtxVbesW.dpuf

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