Adverse health risks increase with proximity to fracking facilities

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.

Can environmental health research help communities impacted by fracking ?

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.

Can noise from fracking operations affect your health ?

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.

Abstract

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.

How did the state of Maryland ban fracking ?

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.

What is the latest science on fracking and hormone disruption ?

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.

How can biomonitoring be used by communities impacted by fracking ?

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.

Abstract

Background
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.

Objective
To evaluate gestational exposure to benzene and toluene in the Peace River Valley, Northeastern British Columbia (Canada).

Methods
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.

Results
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.

Discussion
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.

Fracking chemicals entering the food chain

Accumulation of Marcellus Formation Oil and Gas Wastewater Metals in Freshwater Mussel Shells

Radioactive fracking chemicals dumped in the Allegheny River a decade ago are still showing up in mussels, Environmental Health News
reports. Chemicals from fracking wastewater dumped into Pennsylvania’s Allegheny River before 2011 are still accumulating in the bodies of freshwater mussels downstream, according to a new study.

Abstract

For several decades, high-salinity water brought to the surface during oil and gas (O&G) production has been treated and discharged to waterways under National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits.

In Pennsylvania, USA, a portion of the treated O&G wastewater discharged to streams from 2008 to 2011 originated from unconventional (Marcellus) wells.

We collected freshwater mussels, Elliptio dilatata and Elliptio complanata, both upstream and downstream of a NPDES-permitted facility, and for comparison, we also collected mussels from the Juniata and Delaware Rivers that have no reported O&G discharge.

We observed changes in both the Sr/Cashell and 87Sr/86Srshell in shell samples collected downstream of the facility that corresponded to the time period of greatest Marcellus wastewater disposal (2009–2011). Importantly, the changes in Sr/Cashell and 87Sr/86Srshell shifted toward values characteristic of O&G wastewater produced from the Marcellus Formation. Conversely, shells collected upstream of the discharge and from waterways without treatment facilities showed lower variability and no trend in either Sr/Cashell or 87Sr/86Srshell with time (2008–2015).

These findings suggest that

  1. freshwater mussels may be used to monitor changes in water chemistry through time and help identify specific pollutant sources
  2. and O&G contaminants likely bioaccumulated in areas of surface water disposal.

How (living) close to a fracking site is too close (to residents for safety) ?

Setback distances for unconventional oil and gas development: Delphi study results

Regulations on how close fracking facilities can be to buildings and homes in Pennsylvania are too lax to adequately protect public health, according to a new study.

To protect public health, a panel of experts recommends more than doubling the required distance between frack wells and homes, Environmental Health News reports, Aug 23, 2018.

Abstract

Emerging evidence indicates that proximity to unconventional oil and gas development (UOGD) is associated with health outcomes. There is intense debate about “How close is too close?” for maintaining public health and safety.

The goal of this Delphi study was to elicit expert consensus on appropriate setback distances for UOGD from human activity.

Three rounds were used to identify and seek consensus on recommended setback distances. The 18 panelists were health care providers, public health practitioners, environmental advocates, and researchers/scientists. Consensus was defined as agreement of ≥70% of panelists.

  1. Content analysis of responses to Round 1 questions revealed four categories:
    1. recommend setback distances;
    2. do not recommend setback distances;
    3. recommend additional setback distances for vulnerable populations;
    4. do not recommend additional setback distances for vulnerable populations.
  2. In Round 2, panelists indicated their level of agreement with the statements in each category using a five-point Likert scale.
  3. Based on emerging consensus, statements within each category were collapsed into seven statements for Round 3:
    • recommend set back distances of <¼ mile;
    • ¼—½ mile;
    • 1–1 ¼ mile;
    • and ≥ 2 mile;
    • not feasible to recommend setback distances;
    • recommend additional setbacks for vulnerable groups;
    • not feasible to recommend additional setbacks for vulnerable groups.

The panel reached consensus that setbacks of < ¼ mile should not be recommended and additional setbacks for vulnerable populations should be recommended. The panel did not reach consensus on recommendations for setbacks between ¼ and 2 miles.

The results suggest that if setbacks are used the distances should be greater than ¼ of a mile from human activity, and that additional setbacks should be used for settings where vulnerable groups are found, including schools, daycare centers, and hospitals. The lack of consensus on setback distances between 1/4 and 2 miles reflects the limited health and exposure studies and need to better define exposures and track health.

Water Use for Fracking has Risen by Up to 770 Percent Since 2011

Hydraulic fracturing industry water use rises as drills extend, study says

DURHAM, N.C. The amount of water used per well for hydraulic fracturing surged by up to 770 percent between 2011 and 2016 in all major U.S. shale gas and oil production regions, a new Duke University study finds, Nicholas School of the Environment reports.

The volume of brine-laden wastewater that fracked oil and gas wells generated during their first year of production also increased by up to 1440 percent during the same period, the study shows.

If this rapid intensification continues, fracking’s water footprint could grow by up to 50-fold in some regions by the year 2030 — raising concerns about its sustainability, particularly in arid or semi-arid regions in western states, or other areas where groundwater supplies are stressed or limited.

“Previous studies suggested hydraulic fracturing does not use significantly more water than other energy sources, but those findings were based only on aggregated data from the early years of fracking,”

said Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

“After more than a decade of fracking operation, we now have more years of data to draw upon from multiple verifiable sources. We clearly see a steady annual increase in hydraulic fracturing’s water footprint, with 2014 and 2015 marking a turning point where water use and the generation of flowback and produced water began to increase at significantly higher rates,”

Vengosh said.

“While the extraction of shale gas and tight oil has become more efficient over time as the net production of natural gas and oil from these unconventional wells has increased, the amount of water used for hydraulic fracturing and the volume of wastewater produced from each well have increased at much higher rates, making fracking’s water footprint much higher,”

he added.

The Duke team published its peer-reviewed findings August 15 in Science Advances.

To conduct the study, they collected and analyzed six years of data on water use and natural gas, oil and wastewater production from industry, government and non-profit sources for more than 12,000 individual wells located in all major U.S. shale gas and tight oil producing regions. Then they used these historical data to model future water use and first-year wastewater volumes under two different scenarios.

The models showed that if current low oil and gas prices rise and production again reaches levels seen during fracking’s heyday in the early 2010s, cumulative water use and wastewater volumes could surge by up to 50-fold in unconventional gas-producing regions by 2030, and by up to 20-fold in unconventional oil-producing regions.

“Even if prices and drilling rates remain at current levels, our models still predict a large increase by 2030 in both water use and wastewater production,”

said Andrew J. Kondash, a PhD student in Vengosh’s lab who was lead author of the paper.

A well’s wastewater is comprised chiefly of brines extracted with the gas and oil from deep underground, blended with some of the water initially injected into the well during hydraulic fracturing. These brines are typically salty and may contain toxic and naturally occurring radioactive elements, making them difficult to treat and dispose of safely. To keep up with the growing volume of wastewater now being generated, drilling companies increasingly are injecting it back deep underground into wastewater wells. This practice helps keep the wastewater out of local water supplies but has been linked to small- to medium-sized earthquakes in some locations.

“New drilling technologies and production strategies have spurred exponential growth in unconventional oil and gas production in the United States and, increasingly, in other parts of the world,”

Kondash said.

“This study provides the most accurate baseline yet for assessing the long-term environmental impacts this growth may have, particularly on local water availability and wastewater management.”

Funding came from the National Science Foundation.

Sources

Stress and depression higher among people living near fracking sites

Associations of unconventional natural gas development with depression symptoms and disordered sleep in Pennsylvania

People who live near unconventional natural gas operations such as fracking are more likely to experience depression, Environmental Health News reports.
Featured image credit frackfreeryedale.org.

Abstract

Environmental and community factors may influence the development or course of depression and sleep problems.

In this study, we evaluated the association of unconventional natural gas development (UNGD) with depression symptoms and disordered sleep diagnoses using the Patient Health Questionnaire-8 and electronic health record data among Geisinger adult primary care patients in Pennsylvania.
Participants received a retrospective metric for UNGD at their residence (very low, low, medium, and high) that incorporated dates and durations of well development, distance from patient homes to wells, and well characteristics.

Analyses included 4,762 participants with no (62%), mild (23%), moderate (10%), and moderately severe or severe (5%) depression symptoms in 2014–2015 and 3,868 disordered sleep diagnoses between 2009–2015. We observed associations between living closer to more and bigger wells and depression symptoms, but not disordered sleep diagnoses in models weighted to account for sampling design and participation.

High UNGD (vs. very low) was associated with depression symptoms in an adjusted negative binomial model (exponentiated coefficient = 1.18, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.04–1.34). High and low UNGD (vs. very low) were associated with depression symptoms (vs. none) in an adjusted multinomial logistic model.

Our findings suggest that UNGD may be associated with adverse mental health in Pennsylvania.