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Thank goodness these were peer reviewed! Two environmental papers, one claiming increased air pollution near fracking sites and the second claiming that the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill caused air contamination, have now both been retracted because of “crucial mistakes.”
According to the corresponding author of both papers, Kim Anderson at Oregon State University, the journal plans to publish new versions of both papers in the next few days. In the case of the fracking paper, the conclusions have been reversed — the original paper stated pollution levels exceeded limits set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for lifetime cancer risk, but the corrected data set the risks below EPA levels.
The fracking paper received some media attention when it was released, as it tapped into long-standing concerns about the environmental dangers of hydraulic fracturing (fracking), which extracts natural gas from the earth. A press release that accompanied the paper quoted Anderson as warning: “Air pollution from fracking operations may pose an under-recognized health hazard to people living near them.”
Both papers, published in Environmental Science and Technology, were retracted on the same day (June 29), both due to mistakes in reported levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), pollutants released from burning oil, gas, and other organic matter.
They say that the errors were due to an “honest spreadsheet error.”