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Featured Research Reviews

Here at EHP we know that it can be tough to get your hands on peer-reviewed literature and even tougher to understand the scientific jargon within it. We also know that information is power! Featured Research Reviews offer summaries of recent and relevant studies, clarifying the health impacts of shale gas development.

Buchanich, J., Talbott, E., Arena, V., Bear, T., Fabisiak, J, Wenzel, S., Youk, A., Yuan, J. (2023): Final Report for Pennsylvania Department of Health, Bureau of Epidemiology Hydraulic Fracturing Epidemiology Research Studies: Birth Outcomes

A report on birth outcomes the University of Pittsburgh prepared for the PA Department of Health adds further evidence to shale gas operations’ impact on pregnancy and newborns.

Buchanich, J., Talbott, E., Arena, V., Bear, T., Fabisiak, J, Wenzel, S., Youk, A., Yuan, J. (2023): Final Report for Pennsylvania Department of Health, Bureau of Epidemiology: Hydraulic Fracturing Epidemiology Research Studies: Asthma Outcomes

A report on asthma outcomes the University of Pittsburgh prepared for the PA Department of Health adds further evidence to shale gas operations’ role in aggravating asthma responses in patients.

Deziel, N. C., Clark, C. J., Casey, J. A., Bell, M. L. (2022). Strengths, Challenges, and Implications of Assessing Exposure to Unconventional Oil and Gas Development in Epidemiologic Research

The authors of this literature review concluded that despite the limitations in exposure assessment, studies have consistently identified an increased risk of health problems associated with shale gas development exposure, particularly in children.

Ding, N., Karvonen-Gutierrez, C. A., Mukherjee, B., et al. (2022). Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances and Incident Hypertension in Multi-Racial/Ethnic Women: The Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation

The findings of this study suggest that PFAS could be a contributing factor to women’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Gonzalez, D. J. X., Nardone, A., Nguyen, A. V. et al., (2022). Historic redlining and the siting of oil and gas wells in the United States

This study found that redlined neighborhoods have nearly twice the density of oil and gas wells as compared to neighborhoods that were not redlined.

Xu, Y., Sajja, M., Kumar, A. (2019). Impact of the Hydraulic Fracturing on Indoor Radon Concentrations in Ohio: A Multilevel Modeling Approach

Researchers used statistical modeling to expand on previous research and to determine whether there is an association between shale gas development (SGD) activity and radon levels.

Lebel, E., Michanowicz, D., Bilsback, K., et al. (2022). Indoor air quality impacts of hazardous air pollutants in unburned methane gas leaked from stoves not in use

Researchers detected several hazardous air pollutants in varying amounts known to be associated with adverse health impacts. The authors of this study concluded that the need to further explore and better understand the potential health risks associated with leaked in-home methane gas is key to informing more health-protective policies. 

Hays, J., McCawley, M., Shonkoff, S.B.C. (2017). Potential health impacts for noise pollution from shale gas development

This study concluded that noise impacts from SGD could cause physical health impacts. However, to better understand the impact of noise from SGD as a potential public health concern, additional research is warranted.

You, R., Ho, Y.,- Chang, R. -C. (2022). A review of the harmful effects of particulate matter on
the central nervous system

In this study, researchers conducted a literature review in which they explored the effects of PM on the central nervous system by reviewing recent relevant epidemiological and experimental studies.

Clark, C. J., Johnson, N. P., Soriano Jr, M., et al. (2022). Shale Gas Development Exposure in Pennsylvania and Risk of Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

This study examined whether there was a correlation between exposure to shale gas development (SGD) and cases of cancer, specifically acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Researchers found that children living in proximity to SGD had up to 2 to 3 times the odds of developing ALL.

Bushong, A., McKeon,T., Boland, M.R., Field (2022). Publicly available data reveals association between asthma hospitalizations and shale gas development in Pennsylvania.

Researchers used public data from the PA Department of Health to gain access to asthma hospital admission rates and data for active SGD wells sourced from the PA Department of Environmental Protection. This study found that available county-level data supports an association between an increase in SGD with asthma hospital admission rates in rural counties in Pennsylvania.

Willis et al. (2021): Associations between residential proximity to oil and gas extraction and hypertensive conditions during pregnancy 

Researchers from Oregon State University, Boston University, and the University of Rochester looked at birth records comprising babies born in Texas between 1996 and 2009. This study indicates that there are increased odds of developing gestational hypertension and eclampsia for those living within 1 km (0.6 miles) of an active oil or gas drilling site. 

Li et al. (2022): Exposure to shale gas development and all-cause mortality in Medicare beneficiaries

This study indicates that the continued expansion of SGD over the past decade has directly impacted the health of Medicare beneficiaries living in proximity to SGD regardless of demographics, environment, or socioeconomic factors. The study also strongly suggests that airborne pollutants from SGD are contributing to increased mortality risk as the population downwind from facilities exhibited the greatest mortality risk.

Caron-Beaudoin, É. et al. (2022): Impact of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) on pregnant individuals living near shale gas development

This study indicates an increased presence of VOCs in water and air within households near shale gas development. Due to the previously documented health effects of VOCs on individuals, this study points towards the need for more research on the health impacts of shale gas development on pregnant individuals and environmental justice communities that are most burdened by these exposures.

Gonzalez et al. (2021): Upstream oil and gas production and ambient air pollution in California

The goal of the new 2021 study was to understand how upstream oil and gas preproduction and production could affect ambient air quality and how far out from the emitting source the pollution levels would remain high before returning to background levels. To test this theory, Gonzalez and colleagues examined air data from over 300 monitors in the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) Air Quality System in California from 2006 to 2019. The data specifically focused on five commonly monitored ambient air pollutants including...

Willis et al. (2021): Proximity to oil and gas drilling and birth outcomes

A collaboration of researchers from Oregon State University and the University of Rochester worked together to examine the effect of living within proximity to oil and gas drilling sites and its potential effect on the birth weight of newborns in Texas. Texas generates roughly 24% of U.S. natural gas, and between 1985 and 2019 there were a total of 356,527 drilling sites within that state.

Denham et al. (2021): Acute myocardial infarction (heart attack) associated with unconventional natural gas development

Acute myocardial infarction (AMI), commonly referred to as a heart attack, is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in the United States and around the world. A result of coronary artery disease, AMI is associated with a number of well-known risk factors, including exposure to air pollution—especially from fine and ultrafine particulate matter, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and ground-level ozone.

Hendryx et al. (2020): Natural gas compressor station emissions and mortality rates

Researchers from Indiana University examined the impact of natural gas compressor station emissions on human health by testing for associations, over one year, between volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from major (Title V) compressor stations and mortality rates adjusted for age in the U.S. population. Compressor stations...

McAlexander et al. (2020): Unconventional natural gas development and hospitalization for heart failure in Pennsylvania

There have been a number of important studies related to unconventional oil and gas development (UOGD) conducted by Dr. Brian Schwartz and his colleagues at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, using data from Geisinger, a large health care system in Pennsylvania. The most recent, Unconventional Natural Gas Development and Hospitalization for Heart Failure in Pennsylvania, was published in...

Cushing et al. (2020): Flaring events and birth outcomes

A research team from UCLA and USC took a novel approach to examining the relationship between poor birth outcomes and shale gas development in south Texas by specifically considering proximity to flaring events, not simply proximity to existing and active shale gas infrastructure. Flaring is a procedure used by the fossil fuel industry to burn off excess natural gas during drilling, producing, and transporting oil and gas. Flaring events release numerous hazardous air pollutants, including...

Denham et al. (2019): Hospitalizations for skin issues and genital/urinary issues

Utilizing Pennsylvania county-level hospitalization data and state unconventional natural gas well data, researchers from the University of Rochester found a positive association between the number of gas wells per square kilometer and hospitalizations within two health categories: genital and urinary issues, including kidney stones, urinary tract infections, and kidney infections, and also skin issues, such as cellulitis and abscesses. Over time, as the number of unconventional wells...

Tustin et al. (2017): Sinus problems, migraines, and fatigue

Researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health studied primary care patients at the Geisinger Clinic via questionnaire to survey nasal and sinus, migraine, and fatigue symptoms in Pennsylvania patients. Geisinger clinics are located throughout central and northern Pennsylvania, both in areas of heavy unconventional natural gas development (UNGD) and areas with none. They discovered that patients who lived in areas with the most UNGD activity (in this case exposure was...

McKenzie et al. (2017): Childhood cancer incidence

Lisa McKenzie, a researcher at the University of Colorado, and her team have conducted several important studies on the associations between exposure to shale oil and gas development and health. In this study, she and colleagues look at the two most common forms of childhood cancer – acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) – and their association with exposure to shale well pads. Existing research has already shown that exhaust fumes, PAHs, and other chemicals,...

Rasmussen et al. (2016): Asthma exacerbations

Researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health studied the potential impact of shale gas development on asthma exacerbations between 2005 and 2012. Asthma exacerbations are characterized by shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, and/or chest tightness resulting from inflammation that restricts air flow to and from an individual’s lungs. Researchers looked at the records of 35,508 Geisinger Health System asthma patients who needed medical treatment for an exacerbation...

Stacy et al. (2015): Birth weight and small for gestational age

Researchers out of the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health released a study investigating the relationship between living in an area with heavy unconventional natural gas development and birth outcomes.  They utilized data collected by the Pennsylvania Department of Health on 15,451 live births that occurred in Washington, Westmoreland, and Butler (southwest Pennsylvania) counties between 2007 and 2010. They found that the most exposed mothers, in this case those with more gas...

Rabinowitz et al. (2015): Upper respiratory and skin problems

A research team out of Yale School of Public Health found that residents who live closer to unconventional natural gas wells have more upper respiratory symptoms, such as cough, sore throat, sinus problems, and nose bleeds, than those who live farther away. In their study, "closer" means less than 1 km (0.6 miles) from a well, and "farther away" means more than 2 km (1.2 miles) from a well. Dr. Rabinowitz and his team also found that residents who live closer have more skin problems, such as...

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