A complete and comprehensive ban on fracking is needed to mitigate its grave harm to public health and the climate

Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking (Unconventional Gas and Oil Extraction), Sixth Edition, June 19, 2019

A group of doctors and scientists have released a comprehensive report highlighting that 84 percent of studies published from 2009-2015 on the health impacts of fracking conclude the industry causes harm to human health, Environmental Health News reports.
Concerned Health Professionals of New York compendium.

Abstract

Conclusion

All together, findings to date from scientific, medical, and journalistic investigations combine to demonstrate that fracking poses significant threats to air, water, human health, public safety, community cohesion, long-term economic vitality, biodiversity, seismic stability, and climate stability.

The rapidly expanding body of scientific evidence compiled and referenced in the present volume is massive, troubling, and cries out for decisive action. Across a wide range of parameters, from air and water pollution to radioactivity to social disruption to greenhouse gas emissions, the data continue to reveal a plethora of recurring problems and harms that cannot be sufficiently averted through regulatory frameworks.There is no evidence that fracking can operate without threatening public health directly and without imperiling climate stability upon which public health depends. The only method of mitigating its grave harm to public health and the climate is a complete and comprehensive ban on fracking.

In the words of investigative journalist Andrew Nikiforuk:

Industry swore that its cracking rock technology was safe and proven, but science now tells a different story. Brute force combined with ignorance … has authored thousands of earthquakes … [and] called forth clouds of migrating methane…. The science is complicated but clear: cracking rock with fluids is a chaotic activity and no computer model can predict where those fractures will go. The regulatory record shows that they often go out of zone; extend into water; and rattle existing oil and gas wells, and these rattled wells are leaking more methane.

In closing, we cite comments by epidemiologist Irena Gorski, co-author of the 2019 review of fracking’s health concerns published in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Global Public Health. Her words speak for all who have contributed to this Compendium:

What we found pushes back against the narrative we often hear that say we don’t know enough about the health impacts yet. We have enough evidence at this point that these health impacts should be of serious concern to policymakers interested in protecting public health….As a fossil fuel, natural gas extraction and use is contributing to climate change, of course. But before conducting this study, I didn’t realize the amount of evidence we have that it may be even worse than coal. We included this in our study because climate change has its own contributions to health impacts. These indirect impacts will take longer to appear than the direct health impacts, but they have the potential to be significant.

Environmental Health Concerns From Unconventional Natural Gas Development

After a decade of research, here’s what scientists know about the health impacts of fracking

Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, is a process of extracting oil and gas from the Earth by drilling deep wells and injecting a mixture of liquids and chemicals at high pressure. According to a new study, fracking has been linked to preterm births, high-risk pregnancies, asthma, migraine headaches, fatigue, nasal and sinus symptoms, and skin disorders over the last 10 years, Environmental Health News reports. Image Victoria Buchan-Dyer.

Summary and Keywords

Unconventional natural gas development (UNGD), which includes the processes of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas from unconventional reservoirs such as shale, has dramatically expanded since 2000. In parallel, concern over environmental and community impacts has increased along with the threats they pose for health. Shale gas reservoirs are present on all continents, but only a small proportion of global reserves has been extracted through 2016. Natural gas production from UNGD is highest in the United States in Pennsylvania, Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. But unconventional production is also in practice elsewhere, including in eighteen other U.S. states, Canada, and China. Given the rapid development of the industry coupled with its likelihood of further growth and public concern about potential cumulative and long-term environmental and health impacts, it is important to review what is currently known about these topics.

The environmental impacts from UNGD include chemical, physical, and psychosocial hazards as well as more general community impacts. Chemical hazards commonly include detection of chemical odors; volatile organic compounds (including BTEX chemicals [benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene], and several that have been implicated in endocrine disruption) in air, soil, and surface and groundwater; particulate matter, ozone, and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) in air; and inorganic compounds, including heavy metals, in soil and water, particularly near wastewater disposal sites. Physical hazards include noise, light, vibration, and ionizing radiation (including technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive materials [TENORMs] in air and water), which can affect health directly or through stress pathways. Psychosocial hazards can also operate through stress pathways and include exposure to increases in traffic accidents, heavy truck traffic, transient workforces, rapid industrialization of previously rural areas, increased crime rates, and changes in employment opportunities as well as land and home values. In addition, the deep-well injection of wastewater from UNGD has been associated with increased seismic activity.

These environmental and community impacts have generated considerable concern about potential health effects and corresponding political debate over whether UNGD should be promoted, regulated, or banned. For several years after the expansion of the industry, there were no well-designed, population-based studies that objectively measured UNGD activity or associated exposures in relation to health outcomes. This delay is inherent after the introduction of new industries, but hundreds of thousands of wells were drilled before any health studies were completed. By 2017, there were a number of important, peer-reviewed studies published in the scientific literature that raised concern about potential ongoing health impacts. These studies have reported associations between proximity to UNGD and pregnancy and birth outcomes; migraine headache, chronic rhinosinusitis, severe fatigue, and other symptoms; asthma exacerbations; and psychological and stress-related concerns. Beyond its direct health impacts, UNGD may be substantially contributing to climate change (due to fugitive emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas), which has further health impacts. Certain health outcomes, such as cancer and neurodegenerative diseases, cannot yet be studied because insufficient time has passed in most regions since the expansion of UNGD to allow for latency considerations. With the potential for tens of thousands of additional wells across large geographic areas, these early health studies should give pause about whether and how UNGD should proceed. Citing health concerns, several U.S. states and nations in Europe have already decided to not allow UNGD.

Pennsylvania residents are bearing more than 80 percent of fracking waste

Temporal and spatial trends of conventional and unconventional oil and gas waste management in Pennsylvania, 1991–2017

More than 80 percent of all waste from Pennsylvania’s oil and gas drilling operations stays inside the state, according to a new study that tracked the disposal locations of liquid and solid waste from these operations over 26 years, ehn reports.

Highlights

  • Majority of Pennsylvania oil & gas (O&G) wastewater is disposed of in-state.
  • Final disposal endpoints are often not reported in the PADEP waste inventory.
  • 30% of O&G wastewater generated since 1991 is from conventional development.
  • The majority of wastewater is currently handled by in-field reuse (52% in 2017).
  • Spatial data available for 99% of UOG and 45% of COG wastewater in 2017.

Abstract

The significant development of oil and gas from the Marcellus Shale and other geological formations in Pennsylvania over the last decade has generated large volumes of liquid and solid waste. In this paper we use data reported to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) to examine temporal and spatial trends in generation and management of liquid and solid waste from both conventional and unconventional oil and gas activities in Pennsylvania between 1991 and 2017. While previous assessments have examined this waste inventory in part, no complete assessment of waste quantity, waste types, waste handling practices, and spatial waste tracking has been undertaken using all currently available years of Pennsylvania oil and gas waste data. In 2017 more than half of oil and gas wastewater by volume was reused at well pads to facilitate more hydrocarbon production while the majority of solid waste by volume was disposed of at in-state landfills. The spatial resolution of wastewater generation and handling from unconventional operations has improved substantially with recent regulations and reporting requirements; however, conventional oil and gas development was not held to more stringent reporting requirements and thus spatially-explicit data on wastewater generation and handling from conventional oil and gas development is still lacking. In addition, a third of the liquid waste across all years in the inventory lack a reported final destination. Spatially explicit cradle-to-grave reporting of waste generation and waste handling from both conventional and unconventional oil and gas development is critical to assess potential environmental and human health hazards and risks associated with oil and gas development.

Fracking linked to increased hospitalizations for skin, genital and urinary issues

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.

Highlights

  • 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.

Abstract

Objectives
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.

Study design
This is an ecological study based on county-level data for Pennsylvania, United States, 2003–2014.

Methods
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.

Results
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.

Conclusions
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.

Fracking waste commonly used in commercial applications

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™.

55 unique chemical compounds used for fracking are known as probable or possible human carcinogens

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.

Abstract

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.

Impact of upstream oil extraction and environmental public health : A review of the evidence

There are approximately 40,000 oil fields globally and 6 million people that live or work nearby

Highlights

  • 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

Abstract

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.

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.