Health Impact Resources

Resource Documentation on the Health Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing

The following is a compilation of scientific studies, expert testimony and journalistic articles about the detrimental health impacts of gas drilling.

Four years of study and thousands of pages have been devoted to the study of fracking’s impact on New York’s environment, but no such analysis has been carried out for public health. In “No Compromise on an Independent, Comprehensive Health Impact Assessment” Sandra Steingraber and Dr. Kathy Nolan make the case for why it is critical that New York State conducts a HIA.

Report:  Allegheny County in top 2 percent in U.S. for cancer risk from air pollution
A report released by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health’s Center for Healthy Environments and Communities in November 2013 stated that because of toxic air pollution, Allegheny County, PA residents have twice the cancer risk of those living in surrounding counties and the cancer risk is up to 20 time higher in hot spots within Allegheny County.

The Pittsburgh Regional Environmental Threats Analysis report, funded by The Heinz Endowments, links the higher cancer rates to a broad class of hazardous air pollutants from industry, energy production and diesel vehicles.

To investigate the connection between oil and gas development and the health problems that often follow, Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project (OGAP) researched the extent, types, and possible causes of health symptoms experienced by people living in the gas patches of Pennsylvania between August 2011 and July 2012.  They reported their findings in “Gas Patch Roulette:  How Shale Gas Development Risks Public Health In Pennsylvania.  The main conclusions of the project were:

  • Contaminants associated with oil and gas development are present in air and water in many communities where development is occurring.
  • Many residents have developed health symptoms that they did not have before—indicating the strong possibility that they are occurring because of gas development.
  • By permitting widespread gas development without fully understanding its impacts to public health—and using that lack of knowledge to justify regulatory inaction—Pennsylvania and other states are risking the public’s health.

In “Fracking, Shale Gas and Children’s Health:  Toxins and vulnerable populations”, Barb Harris explains why when it comes to exposure to hazardous chemicals, children are not just little adults. “Children are more vulnerable to environmental hazards,” states the Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit, a subcommittee of the American Pediatric Society. “They eat, drink and breathe more than adults on a pound for pound basis.”(1) This means children are proportionally more exposed to toxins in air, water and food.

The LA Times reported on May 17, 2012 that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that U.S. asthma rates are at an all-time high.  The proportion of Americans with asthma increased from 7.3% in 2001 to 8.4% in 2010, marking the highest level ever.  Very high increases in asthma have been experienced in areas where there is gas drilling.

The Harmed, the Sickened, the Dead and the Disappeared:  Accounts of the impacts of shale gas drilling on people and animals,is a compilation of over a hundred cases of human and animal sickness that is thought to be the result of exposure to air and water contamination associated with gas facilities.  It was compiled by Pennsylvania Alliance for Clean Water and Air, a citizen group.

March 19, 2012, AURORA, Colo. — In a new study, researchers from the Colorado School of Public Health have shown that air pollution caused by hydraulic fracturing or fracking may contribute to acute and chronic health problems for those living near natural gas drilling sites.

In 2008, professionals from the Colorado School of Public Health prepared a study titled, “Potential Exposure Related Human Health Effects of Oil & Gas Development”.  Its purpose was to review the known contaminants associated with oil and gas exploration, drilling, extraction and production.  The issues laid out in this report form the outline of additional studies that need to be done now that we have have more experience with the detrimental effects of gas and oil drilling on human and animal health.

Small doses of chemicals that are endocrine disruptors, which have been identified as being present in fracking fluid can have big health effects. That is a main finding of a new report - Hormones and Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals: Low-Dose Effects and Nonmonotonic Dose Responses, three years in the making, published on March 14, 2012 by a team of 12 scientists who study hormone-altering chemicals.

On February 1, 2012, Marily J. Heine, MD, President, Pennsylvania Medical Society issued a press release, “What happens when the doctor doesn’t know?” about the need to conduct epidemiological studies to educate doctors and the public about the best way to keep communities that are being fracked healthy.

In “Blind Rush? Shale Gas Boom Proceeds Amid Human Health Questions”, published in August 2011, Charles Schmidt found that Individual ‘emission units’ within a shale gas production field — including drill rigs, condensate tanks, compressors, and other equipment — rarely generate enough pollution on their own to be considered major sources however when these emissions are aggregated these units can emit substantial amounts of air pollution that can contribute to ground-level ozone, an air pollutant with significant respiratory and cardiac health effects.

Ronald E. Bishop’s, (Ph.D., CHO 
Chemistry & Biochemistry, Department 
State University of New York, College at Oneonta), in depth study “Chemical and Biological Risk Assessment for Natural Gas Extraction in New York” makes the case that on the basis of recent historical performance, fracking poses significant chemical and biological hazards to human health and ecosystem stability.

Sandra Steingraber is an acclaimed ecologist and author who explores the links between human rights and the environment with a focus on chemical contamination.  “The Whole Fracking Enchilada” is just one of the many articles she has written about the danger of tracking to  our health and the environment.

The Town of DISH, TX, Ambient Air Monitoring Analysis was commissioned by the Mayor of DISH, TX to study health problems including nausea, headaches, breathing difficulties, chronic eye and throat irritation and brain disorders that developed after gas drilling compressor stations were built in their town.

The EPA Draft Findings of Pavillion, Wyoming Ground Water Investigation, detected synthetic chemicals, like the ones used in hydraulic fracturing, in aquifers. Earthworks did the following studies in response to resident health problems after gas drilling came to DISH, TX and Pavillion, WY:

Town of DISH, TX Community Health Survey and Town of Pavillion, WY Community Health Survey

Children in Texas Towns Hit with Asthma Epidemic

U.S. Congressional testimony by Dr. Conrad Dan Volz, University of Pittsburgh, on natural gas drilling and water-related public health impacts.  PEHSU Information Concerning Effects on Children of Natural Gas Extraction and Hydraulic Fracturing –details the special vulnerability of children to the environmental hazards associated with gas drilling using hydraulic fracturing.

“Impacts of Gas Drilling on Human and Animal Health”  a study by Cornell veterinary doctors, Michelle Bamberger and Robert E. Oswald examines the premise that because animals often are exposed continually to air, soil and groundwater and have more frequent reproductive cycles, they can be use as sentinels to monitor impacts to human health.

Hydrogen Sulfide, Oil and Gas and People’s Health –documents the impacts on human health caused by the hydrogen sulfide that is associated with oil and gas development.

The Endocrine Disruption Exchange website has a wealth of information on the toxins that are part of natural gas operations and also has links to articles and research papers by top scientists including Theo Colborn, Carol Kwiatkowski, Kim Schultz, and Mary Bachran, including “Natural Gas Operations from a Public Health Perspective” which lists 353 chemicals identified by Chemical Abstract Service (CAS) numbers as being used in the fracking process.  It found that more than 75% of these chemicals could affect the skin, eyes, and other sensory organs, and the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems. Approximately 40–50% could affect the brain/nervous system, immune and cardiovascular systems, and the kidneys; 37% could affect the endocrine system; and 25% could cause cancer and mutations.

Presentations at the Health Effects of Shale Gas Conference, University of Pittsburgh (November 18, 2011)

PennEnvironment,“In the Shadow of the Marcellus Boom: How Shale Gas Extraction puts Vulnerable Pennsylvanians at Risk.”

Effect of Drilling Fluid Exposure to Oil and Gas Workers 

Earthworks Oil and Gas Accountability Project page on health & toxics 

Presentations at the Peoples Oil and Gas Summit 2010  (Scroll to Panel 1: Health impacts from drilling, fracking, waste pits and gas production).

Earthworks Oil & Gas Accountability Project. FlowbackHow the Texas Natural Gas Boom Affects Health and Safety. April 2011. 

Oil, a Lifecycle Analysis of its Health and Environmental Impacts 

Natural Resources Defense Council, “Drilling Down: Protecting Western Communities from the Environmental and Health Effects of Oil and Gas Development.” 

A combination of government agencies and researchers at the University of Ottawa conducted a review of the Epidemiologic Evidence of Relationships Between Reproductive and Child Health Outcomes and Environmental Chemical Contaminants in May 2008. The review summarizes the level of epidemiologic evidence for relationships between prenatal and/or early life exposure to environmental chemical contaminants and fetal, child, and adult health. Discussion focuses on fetal loss, intrauterine growth restriction, preterm birth, birth defects, respiratory and other childhood diseases, neuropsychological deficits, premature or delayed sexual maturation, and certain adult cancers linked to fetal or childhood exposures.

Based on extensive study and scientific evidence, Catskill Mountainkeeper has called for a ban on fracking. We are also working within the existing regulatory process in New York to raise critical issues, widen the discussion of the impacts of drilling, and expand the options available to protect the public.



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