Appalachian Basin

UTIs Making Me Crazy

Cherie Messore
Director of Public Affairs — IOGA-NY

 Men, you may want to click on one of the other entries on this blog for the next couple minutes.  Go ahead, it’s OK; staying on this blog could become uncomfortable rather quickly.  Sistas, I had to send the men away because we’re going to talk about Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) here. Yes, that’s right. We’ve had ‘em, we hate ‘em and we have a general understanding of how they happen.  This familiarity is one reason I was so surprised while watching a recent production from WCNY entitled “Groundswell: Hydrofracking in New York”.

One of the interview guests, who is a rather well-known industry critic, tearfully held up a beaker of cloudy water she says came from her tap after a natural gas well was developed nearby (32:38). She then indicates her daughter (age not given) drank this water and after three days of feeling ill, was diagnosed with a UTI as well as some abdominal swelling. The cause? The tainted water, of course. Huh? My first thought was that this just didn’t add up — but being a curious person, I knew I should contact others as well.

Turns out a friend of mine had a similar reaction. OK, this is a family blog and we must be delicate here, but I didn’t think UTIs happened from the “top down.”  If this is the case, my friend noted, wouldn’t other bodily systems be harmed first and in sequence? And wouldn’t everyone in that household be guzzling cranberry juice with reckless abandon?  While our perceptions were aligned, further perspective was still needed.

So I took the question to a medical doctor, and after viewing the video, he said, “this is complete BS.” That’s medical-speak for no, that’s not how UTIs happen. He further commented that even if you drank water with the bacteria that causes UTIs, you wouldn’t contract a UTI. Even if the water contained traces of chemicals, the result would not be a UTI.

This is just another example of how even trusted media sources often fail to the next step in fact-checking – comparing the facts against what they’re hearing from people who aren’t subject-matter experts.

Certainly it’s a challenge to interview someone objectively who is rightly emotional about a family illness. Maybe this incomplete reporting is a function of limited time, resources, and energy to put together a more thorough story.  Maybe it’s the simple fact that emotion nets viewers,  and facts, science and logic don’t make for good television. It could be a number of things.  What I do know is what’s lost as a result: credibility and truth in journalism. Worse, if reporting like this continues, an industry might be lost in our state, too.

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