Health Professional Toolkit

Environmental Health Issues in Shale Gas Development

The last few decades have seen a shale gas development boom across the U.S., with the addition of an estimated 1.3 million oil and gas facilities—active production wells, gas compressor stations, processing plants—not to mention a web of other infrastructure, such as pipelines, storage facilities, injection wells, waste sites, trucking services, and petrochemical plants.  

Approximately 12.6 million people live within one-half mile of such a facility. Many, especially those in underserved and underrepresented communities, live near multiple sources of emissions. Nearly 3 million children attend school within a half-mile of these facilities. Against this backdrop of industry, the risk that people are being exposed to toxic chemicals is greatly intensified, a public health crisis that needs to be addressed.  

Impacts of SGD Include:

  • Exposure to toxic chemicals through various exposure pathways, including air emissions and water contamination.  

    • Air emissions from SGD contain levels of particulate matter high enough to create health hazards. Air pollution from SGD is a clear, well-defined pathway of exposure that is produced not only from activities in and around the well, but also from the transportation of water, sand, and chemicals to and from well pads and other ancillary processes. For more information on the impact of SGD on air, check out this page.  

    • SGD has been linked to surface and groundwater contamination. Researchers found groundwater near drilling sites contained methane concentrations 17 times higher than wells where drilling was not taking place. For more information on the impact of SGD on water check out this page.  

    • Toxic chemicals are used in SGD and are present in generated wastes and byproducts. 

  • Exposure to other social and biological stressors associated with related heavy industrial activities, such as noise and light pollution. 

  • Health symptoms reported by residents in gas producing areas have a psychological basis, given that increased levels of anxiety, tension, irritability, and depression have all been identified in these residents.  

The goal of the toolkit is to provide health professionals with up-to-date information and research on the impact of shale gas development on patients' and clients’ health. In using the toolkit, health professionals will be able to:

  • Understand the existing research that links shale gas development to health impacts. 

  • Recognize the potential impacts that shale gas development is having on patients’ and clients’ physical or mental health.  

  • Provide resources and recommendations for impacted patients and clients.