Toolkit―Oncology

The scientific community continues to quantify and qualify the oncologic risks of living, working, and playing in proximity to shale gas development (SGD). As the latency periods for different types of cancers are variable and can be long, and since high-volume SGD began ramping up from 2005-2010, existing studies on cancer related to SGD are limited but expected to increase over time.

Known Carcinogens Table.png
Oncology Air Water Pollution Graphic.png

Graphic courtesy of Elliot, E.G. et al., (2017)

Research suggests at least 55 carcinogenic compounds—49 carried by water, 20 by air (some overlap)—are potentially released into the environment as a result of SGD. Note that the majority of the chemicals emitted in air and liquid waste in SGD, represented by the white part of the pie above, have not been tested for human carcinogenicity.

WHAT THE RESEARCH SAYS

Jost, E., Dingley, B., Jost, C., et al. (2021). Associations Between the Density of Oil and Gas Infrastructure and the Incidence, Stage and Outcomes of Solid Tumours: A Population-Based Geographic Analysis.

The authors studied populations in Alberta, Canada, to see if there was a correlation between development of solid tumors and living in proximity to oil and gas development. They found:

  • A positive correlation between density of oil and gas development and solid tumor diagnoses.

  • A positive correlation of specific tumor types associated with higher oil and gas density measured as > 30 total facilities/100 km2 (approximately 38.6 square miles). This includes breast, prostate, lung, colorectal, melanoma, renal, head and neck, gastric, and hepatobiliary malignancies.

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

The authors analyzed radon data from 2007 to 2014 in Ohio to determine if there was an association between distance to SGD wells and household radon levels. They found:

  • A strong correlation between indoor radon concentrations and SGD in Ohio.

  • Data suggests that household radon levels increase as the distance to shale gas sites decreases.

McKenzie, L. M., Blair, B., Hughes, J., et al. (2018). Ambient Nonmethane Hydrocarbon Levels Along Colorado’s Northern Front Range: Acute and Chronic Health Risks.

The authors measured air emissions at various distances from SGD facilities in Colorado to calculate lifetime risk of cancer. They found:

  • Residents within 500 feet of SGD facilities had a lifetime cancer risk of 8.3 per 10,000 people, which exceeds the EPA’s upper limit of risk (1 per 10,000 people).

  • They attributed this risk to the levels of benzene.

McKenzie, L. M., Allshouse, W. B., Byers, T. E., et al. (2017). Childhood hematologic cancer and residential proximity to oil and gas development.

The authors compared incidence of acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) in young people (5-24 years) to all other childhood cancers in Colorado in relation to exposure to shale gas wells. They found:

  • ALL cases were 4.3 times as likely to be found in young people with the highest level of exposure to shale gas wells when compared to young people with diagnosis of other types of cancer.

  • ALL incidence decreased as exposure decreased.

 

Elliott, E. G., Trinh, P., Ma, X., et al. (2017). Unconventional oil and gas development and risk of childhood leukemia: Assessing the evidence.

The authors set out to determine what was known about the carcinogenicity of chemical compounds emitted into the air or present in the waste stream. They checked 1,177 water pollutants and 143 air pollutants potentially emitted by SGD with the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s carcinogen monographs. They found:

  • Over 80% of pollutants had not yet been assessed for carcinogenicity.

  • 49 water and 20 air pollutants (55 unique compounds) were identified as known, probable, or possible carcinogens.

  • 20 compounds had evidence of leukemia/lymphoma risk.

Finkel, M. (2016). Shale gas development and cancer incidence in southwest Pennsylvania.

The author investigated whether SGD was correlated with increased cancer incidence in southwest Pennsylvania. The author found:

  • The observed number of urinary bladder cases was higher than expected in both sexes in counties with shale gas activity.

  • In counties with the fewest number of producing wells, the increase in urinary bladder cases was essentially nonexistent.

  • Thyroid cancer increased substantially among both sexes over time in all counties regardless of the number of wells drilled.

Yao, Y., Chen, T., Shen, S. S., et al. (2015). Malignant human cell transformation of Marcellus Shale gas drilling flow back water.

The authors studied Marcellus shale flowback waters from 5 distinct wells to determine the toxicity and carcinogenicity. Cells were exposed to Marcellus shale flowback and then injected into mice. They found:

  • Mice injected with cells exposed to Marcellus shale flowback grew tumors.

  • Mice injected with cells that were not exposed to Marcellus shale wastewater did not grow tumors.

  • Marcellus shale wastewater contained high levels of barium and strontium which authors suggested may have played a role in tumor development.

FULL CITATIONS

Jost, E., Dingley, B., Jost, C., Cheung, W. Y., Quan, M. L., Bouchard-Fortier, A., Kong, S., Xu, Y. (2021). Associations between the density of oil and gas infrastructure and the incidence, stage and outcomes of solid tumours: A population-based geographic analysis. Frontiers in Oncology, 11. https://doi.org/10.3389/fonc.2021.757875

Xu, Y., Sajja, M., Kumar, A. (2019). Impact of the Hydraulic Fracturing on Indoor Radon Concentrations in Ohio: A Multilevel Modeling Approach. Frontiers in Public Health, 10;7:76. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpubh.2019.00076/full

McKenzie, L. M., Blair, B., Hughes, J., Allshouse, W. B., Blake, N. J., Helmig, D., Milmoe, P., Halliday, H., Blake, D. R., Adgate, J. L. (2018). Ambient Nonmethane Hydrocarbon Levels Along Colorado's Northern Front Range: Acute and Chronic Health Risks. Environmental Science & Technology. 52(8):4514-4525. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29584423/ Erratum in: (2018) Environmental Science & Technology. 52(24):14568-14569. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.est.8b06179

McKenzie, L. M., Allshouse, W. B., Byers, T. E., Bedrick, E. J., Serdar, B., Adgate, J. L. (2017). Childhood hematologic cancer and residential proximity to oil and gas development. PLoS One, 12(2):e0170423. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0170423

Elliott, E. G., Trinh, P., Ma, X., Leaderer, B. P., Ward, M. H., & Deziel, N. C. (2017). Unconventional oil and gas development and risk of childhood leukemia: Assessing the evidence. Science of The Total Environment, 576, 138–147. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.10.072

 

Finkel, M. (2016). Shale gas development and cancer incidence in southwest Pennsylvania. Public Health, 141:198-206. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/309455462_Shale_gas_development_and_cancer_incidence_in_southwest_Pennsylvania

Yao, Y., Chen, T., Shen, S. S., Niu, Y., DesMarais, T. L., Linn, R., Saunders, E., Fan, Z., Lioy, P., Kluz, T., Chen, L. C., Wu, Z., Costa, M., Zelikoff, J. (2015). Malignant human cell transformation of Marcellus Shale gas drilling flow back water. Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, 288(1):121-30. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26210350/