Unconventional natural gas development and hospitalizations: evidence from Pennsylvania, United States, 2003–2014
According to a new study, rashes, urinary tract infections, and kidney stones requiring hospital stays are more common in areas with more drilling, Environmental Health News reports.
- Long-term exposure to unconventional drilling may be harmful to population health.
- Genitourinary and skin-related hospitalization rates increase with drilling.
- Healthcare professionals should encourage exposed individuals to seek care early.
- Research into the causal mechanisms is warranted.
To examine relationships between short-term and long-term exposures to unconventional natural gas development, commonly known as fracking, and county hospitalization rates for a variety of broad disease categories.
This is an ecological study based on county-level data for Pennsylvania, United States, 2003–2014.
We estimated multivariate regressions with county and year fixed effects, using two 12-year panels: all 67 Pennsylvania counties and 54 counties that are not large metropolitan.
After correcting for multiple comparisons, we found a positive association of cumulative well density (per km2) with genitourinary hospitalization rates. When large metropolitan counties were excluded, this relationship persisted, and positive associations of skin-related hospitalization rates with cumulative well count and well density were observed. The association with genitourinary hospitalization rates is driven by females in 20–64 years group, particularly for kidney infections, calculus of ureter, and urinary tract infection. Contemporaneous wells drilled were not significantly associated with hospitalizations after adjustment for multiple comparisons.
Our study shows that long-term exposure to unconventional gas development may have an impact on prevalence of hospitalizations for certain diseases in the affected populations and identifies areas of future research on unconventional gas development and health.
Is liquid waste from oil and gas operations on your sidewalk or in your pool ?
“They’ve spread it on roads. They’ve irrigated almond farms and fruit groves with it. The oil and gas industry’s liquid waste has been used for a variety of commercial and industrial purposes over the years. But never has the “beneficial use” of this waste stream been so grossly applied, or so close to home, as it is today.
Meet Eureka Resources and Nature’s Own Source. Both of these companies have attracted attention by processing liquid waste from oil and gas operations and creating commercial products for use in pools and on roads, sidewalks, patios, stairs or anywhere else a consumer may put it. “
Read Is Drilling and Fracking Waste on Your Sidewalk or in Your Pool?, February 21, 2019. Image credit Clorox® Pool&Spa™.
Unconventional oil and gas development and risk of childhood leukemia: Assessing the evidence
2017 Study Highlights
- Concerns exist about carcinogenic effects of unconventional oil & gas development.
- We evaluated the carcinogenicity of 1177 water pollutants and 143 air pollutants.
- These chemicals included 55 known, probable, or possible human carcinogens.
- Specifically, 20 compounds had evidence of leukemia/lymphoma risk.
- Research on exposures to unconventional oil & gas development and cancer is needed.
The widespread distribution of unconventional oil and gas (UO&G) wells and other facilities in the United States potentially exposes millions of people to air and water pollutants, including known or suspected carcinogens. Childhood leukemia is a particular concern because of the disease severity, vulnerable population, and short disease latency. A comprehensive review of carcinogens and leukemogens associated with UO&G development is not available and could inform future exposure monitoring studies and human health assessments.
The objective of this analysis was to assess the evidence of carcinogenicity of water contaminants and air pollutants related to UO&G development.
We obtained a list of 1177 chemicals in hydraulic fracturing fluids and wastewater from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and constructed a list of 143 UO&G-related air pollutants through a review of scientific papers published through 2015 using PubMed and ProQuest databases.
We assessed carcinogenicity and evidence of increased risk for leukemia/lymphoma of these chemicals using International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) monographs.
The majority of compounds (> 80%) were not evaluated by IARC and therefore could not be reviewed. Of the 111 potential water contaminants and 29 potential air pollutants evaluated by IARC (119 unique compounds), 49 water and 20 air pollutants were known, probable, or possible human carcinogens (55 unique compounds). A total of 17 water and 11 air pollutants (20 unique compounds) had evidence of increased risk for leukemia/lymphoma, including benzene, 1,3-butadiene, cadmium, diesel exhaust, and several polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
Though information on the carcinogenicity of compounds associated with UO&G development was limited, our assessment identified 20 known or suspected carcinogens that could be measured in future studies to advance exposure and risk assessments of cancer-causing agents.
Our findings support the need for investigation into the relationship between UO&G development and risk of cancer in general and childhood leukemia in particular.
There are approximately 40,000 oil fields globally and 6 million people that live or work nearby
- Identifies 63 studies on the exposure and health risks related to oil extraction
- Examines the human health effects of oil drilling
- Discusses potential exposure pathways via include air, soil, water and waste fluids
Upstream oil extraction, which includes exploration and operation to bring crude oil to the surface, frequently occurs near human populations. There are approximately 40,000 oil fields globally and 6 million people that live or work nearby. Oil extraction can impact local soil, water, and air, which in turn can influence community health. As oil resources are increasingly being extracted near human populations, we highlight the current scope of scientific knowledge regarding potential community health impacts with the aim to help identify scientific gaps and inform policy discussions surrounding oil drilling operations.
In this review, we assess the wide range of both direct and indirect impacts that oil drilling operations can have on human health, with specific emphasis on understanding the body of scientific literature to assess potential environmental and health risks to residents living near active onshore oil extraction sites. From an initial literature search capturing 2236 studies, we identified 22 human studies, including 5 occupational studies, 5 animal studies, 6 experimental studies and 31 oil drilling-related exposure studies relevant to the scope of this review.
The current evidence suggests potential health impacts due to exposure to upstream oil extraction, such as cancer, liver damage, immunodeficiency, and neurological symptoms. Adverse impacts to soil, air, and water quality in oil drilling regions were also identified. Improved characterization of exposures by community health studies and further study of the chemical mixtures associated with oil extraction will be critical to determining the full range of health risks to communities living near oil extraction.
Unconventional oil and gas development is rapidly encroaching on heavily populated neighborhoods, posing potential risks to human health
Dr. Lisa McKenzie presents results from a human health risk assessment that characterized prenatal through adult health risks from exposure to non-methane hydrocarbons in Colorado populations living near oil and gas development. The study found that both air pollutant concentrations and health risks increased with proximity to oil and gas facilities.
Lisa McKenzie, PhD MPH,is an Assistant Research Professor at the Colorado School of Public Health on the University of Colorado Denver’s Anschutz Medical Campus. Her expertise is in exposure assessment and environmental epidemiology, and human health risk assessment. Dr. McKenzie’s research has contributed to the understanding of how air pollutants and other exposures resulting from the unconventional development of petroleum resources may affect the public’s health.
Reference. Image blogs.sierraclub.
Fracking and Health: Ask an Expert, with Dr. Gregory Howard, 2018
Dr. Gregory Howard, environmental public health scientist and consultant, describes various types of health studies, focusing on what a community should consider before beginning a study.
Dr. Gregory Howard explains how study design is influenced by the goals and needs of the community and the decision makers they are trying to reach, and discusses challenges of doing such research.
- Oil & Gas Program, Fracking and Health: Ask an Expert Podcasts.
Fracking and Health: Ask an Expert, with Dr. Michael McCawley, 2018
Dr. Michael McCawley is Clinical Associate Professor at West Virginia University.
Dr. Michael McCawley discusses the adverse health effects associated with stress from environmental noise exposure and how factors contributing to noise levels might not be effectively addressed through mitigation measures or setbacks.
Modern oil and gas development frequently occurs in close proximity to human populations and increased levels of ambient noise have been documented throughout some phases of development. Numerous studies have evaluated air and water quality degradation and human exposure pathways, but few have evaluated potential health risks and impacts from environmental noise exposure. We reviewed the scientific literature on environmental noise exposure to determine the potential concerns, if any, that noise from oil and gas development activities present to public health. Data on noise levels associated with oil and gas development are limited, but measurements can be evaluated amidst the large body of epidemiology assessing the non-auditory effects of environmental noise exposure and established public health guidelines for community noise. There are a large number of noise dependent and subjective factors that make the determination of a dose response relationship between noise and health outcomes difficult. However, the literature indicates that oil and gas activities produce noise at levels that may increase the risk of adverse health outcomes, including annoyance, sleep disturbance, and cardiovascular disease. More studies that investigate the relationships between noise exposure and human health risks from unconventional oil and gas development are warranted. Finally, policies and mitigation techniques that limit human exposure to noise from oil and gas operations should be considered to reduce health risks.
Fracking and Health: Ask an Expert, with Brooke Harper, 2018
Brooke Harper is Maryland Policy Director at Chesapeake Climate Action Network.
Brooke Harper shares the strategies, messaging, and coalition building used to mobilize support at the local, county, and state level highlighting the most effective actions that contributed to their successful campaign.
- Oil & Gas Program, Fracking and Health: Ask an Expert Podcasts.
Fracking and Health: Ask an Expert, with Dr. Susan Nagel, 2018
Dr. Susan Nagel is Associate Professor and Director of the Research Success Center in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health at the University of Missouri.
Dr. Susan Nagel discusses the science on health effects from prenatal exposure to fracking chemicals in animal models and human proximity studies and suggests building upon current research through collaboration with impacted communities.
- Oil & Gas Program, Fracking and Health: Ask an Expert Podcasts.
Fracking and Health: Ask an Expert, with Dr. Elyse Caron-Beaudoin, 2018
Dr. Elyse Caron-Beaudoin, postdoctoral fellow in the University of Montreal School of Public Health gives practical tips for designing research studies to measure chemicals in the bodies of people living near fracking.
Dr. Elyse Caron-Beaudoin also discusses how biomonitoring data can support efforts to protect public health.
Northeastern British Columbia (Canada) is an area of intense hydraulic fracturing for unconventional natural gas exploitation. There have been multiple reports of air and water contamination by volatile organic compounds in the vicinity of gas wells. Although these chemicals are known developmental toxicants, no biomonitoring effort has been carried out in the region.
To evaluate gestational exposure to benzene and toluene in the Peace River Valley, Northeastern British Columbia (Canada).
Urine samples were collected over five consecutive days from 29 pregnant women. Metabolites of benzene (s-phenylmercapturic acid (S-PMA) and trans, trans-muconic acid (t,t-MA)) and toluene (s-benzylmercapturic acid (S-BMA)) were measured in pooled urine samples from each participant. Levels of benzene metabolites were compared to those from the general Canadian population and from a biomonitoring study of residents from an area of active gas exploitation in Pavillion, Wyoming (USA). Levels measured in participants from the two recruitment sites, and self-identifying as Indigenous or non-Indigenous, were also compared.
Whereas the median S-PMA level (0.18 μg/g creatinine) in our study was similar to that in the general Canadian population, the median t,t-MA level (180 μg/g creatinine) was approximately 3.5 times higher. Five women had t,t-MA levels above the biological exposure index® proposed by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists. The median urinary S-BMA level in our pilot study was 7.00 μg/g creatinine. Urinary metabolite levels were slightly higher in self-identifying Indigenous women, but this difference was only statistically significant for S-PMA.
Urinary t,t-MA levels, but not S-PMA levels, measured in our study are suggestive of a higher benzene exposure in participating pregnant women from the Peace River Valley than in the general Canadian population. Given the small sample size and limitations of t,t-MA measurements (e.g., non-specificity), more extensive monitoring is warranted.