(WBNG) -- A new study out of Binghamton University shows fracking may be even more dangerous than previously believed.
Lead author Ruohao Zhang and Professor of Economics Neha Khanna, studied shale gas wells in Pennsylvania with four other researchers from different universities.
Zhang and Khanna tell 12 News they looked at the impact of the shale gas extraction process on the air quality, finding the pollutants emitted in the air can cause significant harm to human health.
This comes as last week the Pennsylvania Attorney General released a report finding state government agencies failed to properly regulate the shale gas well industry.
The study from BU concludes roughly 20 people in Pennsylvania lost their lives during a seven-year period because of the pollution from the fracking sites.
According to the study, particulate matter with a diameter less than or equal to 2.5 microns, or PM2.5, is associated with several health issues like cardiovascular diseases and respiratory ailments, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma. Children, the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions are particularly vulnerable to those health issues.
"It is well known that PM2.5 is dangerous. The particles are so small that they actually go deep into the lungs and get embedded in the tissues and thats what causes the health effects. It's actually quite difficult to reverse the health effects," said Khanna.
The researchers also found the pollutants in the air were detectable as far as six miles down wind from as active well.
There are more than 20,000 shale gas wells across the state, including thousands along the New York border in Bradford and Susquehanna counties.