Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale region residents have reported medical symptoms they believe are related to nearby Unconventional Natural Gas Development (UNGD). Associations between medical symptoms and UNGD have been minimally explored. The objective of this descriptive study is to explore whether shale region Pennsylvania residents perceive UNGD as a health concern and whether they attribute health symptoms to UNGD exposures. A questionnaire was administered to adult volunteers with medical complaints in a primary-care medical office in a county where UNGD was present. Participants were asked whether they were concerned about health effects from UNGD, and whether they attributed current symptoms to UNGD or to some other environmental exposure. There were 72 respondents; 22% perceived UNGD as a health concern and 13% attributed medical symptoms to UNGD exposures.
Overall, 42% attributed one or more of their medical symptoms to environmental causes, of which UNGD was the most frequent. A medical record review conducted on six participants who attributed their medical symptoms to UNGD revealed that only one of these records documented both the symptoms in question and the attribution to UNGD. The results of this pilot study suggest that there is substantial concern about adverse health effects of UNGD among Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale residents, and that these concerns may not be adequately represented in medical records. Further efforts to determine the relationship between UNGD and health are recommended in order to address community concerns.