Medical Society of the State of New York (MSSNY) Resolution on Health Effects Associated with Natural Gas Infrastructure, 2015
E. Christopher Abruzzo
Secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
Rachel Carson State Office Building
400 Market Street
Harrisburg, PA 17101
Dear Secretary Abruzzo
I am writing in regard to decisions that your office will be making about unconventional natural gas extraction (UGE). Some of these decisions may relate specifically to children, such as decisions about setbacks between UGE sites and schools. Other decisions may relate to UGE in a broader sense. As a physician with significant expertise in environmental health*, I want to point out that there is no information in the medical or public health literature to indicate that UGE can be implemented with a minimum of risk to human health.
In this very new area of research, there are very few articles in the public or peer-reviewed literature that do indicate that there are health problems and there are a number of other pieces of data that suggest that UGE is fraught with negative health outcomes. Elaine Hill at Cornell University compared pregnancy outcomes from a group of mothers who lived in proximity to active wells to outcomes in mothers who lived near wells currently under permit but not yet developed. The results showed an association between shale gas development and incidence of low birth weight and small for gestational age (25% and 18% increased risk).1
McKenzie and colleagues looked at the relationship between proximity and density of gas wells to maternal address and birth defects, preterm birth and fetal growth.2 Two approximately even exposure groups were formed for births in rural Colorado between 1996 and 2009: zero wells within ten miles and one or more wells within ten miles. For women residing with one or more wells within ten miles, women were then categorized into three groups of increasing number of wells within ten miles. Women in the highest exposure group, with greater than 125 wells per mile, had an elevated risk of births with congenital heart disease (CHD) and neural tube defects (NTD). A risk for both CHD and NTD increased with increasing number of wells. The authors cited chemicals such as benzene, solvents and air pollutants as previously established associations between maternal exposure and CHDs and NTDs.
It is also very clear that there are adverse mental health outcomes associated with UGE in addition to the physical health problems noted above. A community study by Ferrar and colleagues found that the predominant stressor of citizens impacted by shale gas drilling in Pennsylvania was a concern for their health.3 The majority of persons interviewed felt that their health concerns were largely ignored and the most common health complaint of community members was stress. Noise can also be a source of stress for residents near UGE activities. Well pad operations, when set up, are industrial facilities often running 24 hours a day near homes, schools and public areas, creating unhealthy noise levels for the surrounding area. Although noise is a part of our daily life, with typical conversations occurring at sounds levels between 55-60 decibels (dbA), annoyance to noise can begin to occur at sound levels around 55 dbA, school performance begins to decline at 70 dbA, and sleep is disturbed at anywhere from 35-60 dbA. For well pads, noise levels have been shown to be 89-90 dbA at 50 feet from the pad, 60-68 dbA at 500 feet and 63-54 dbA at 1,000 feet from the pad.4 Stressors may also include odors, such as from the rotten egg smell of hydrogen sulfide released by unconventional gas extraction operations.
In addition to individual health, UGE activities can impact population health and create community wide changes. A health impact assessment done in Battlement Mesa, CO found that unconventional gas extraction activities create community-wide impacts, including an increased transient worker population and a decreased use of public outdoor areas. The assessment also found increased crime rates and rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and although crime rates and STIs cannot be directly correlated with UGE activities, they are none the less real community changes that coincided with the introduction of UGE. Other identified health impacts include: increased traffic accidents, decreased use of outdoor space and reduced physical activity, increased stress, a decline of social cohesion and strain on community resources, such as healthcare and housing, due to an influx of workers.5
Although research is limited on the health impacts of UGE, there are real pathways of exposure, such as through air and water, from UGE activities to human populations. Air pollution occurs during every stage of UGE. In an analysis of all chemicals used in UGE processes, 37% were found to be volatile and therefore able to aerosolize. Of these volatile chemicals, 81% were found to have adverse effects on the brain and central nervous system.6 Aerosolized chemicals have the ability to be inhaled and be absorbed directly into the bloodstream, bypassing the body’s detoxifying mechanisms of the liver. Diesel engines and generators, another source of air pollution, are widely used in UGE and a number of federal agencies and international bodies classify diesel exhaust as “carcinogenic to humans,”7 as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen,”8 or as “likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”9
Water pollution has been documented in association with UGE.10 While this research focuses on contamination with methane, it is reasonable to think that components of hydraulic fracturing fluids and normally occurring underground toxic substances travel with the methane. Data collected by the Minority Staff of the Committee on Energy and Commerce of the US House of Representatives in 2011, based on data submitted by the 14 leading oil and gas service companies, revealed the use of more than 2,500 hydraulic fracturing products containing 750 chemicals and other components.11 From the limited information available, it is evident that many of the substances used in hydraulic fracturing fluid are toxic, including some which are known carcinogens. Wastewater, such as the flowback and produced water, can contain a large number of naturally occurring toxic chemicals in addition to the chemicals added to make the hydraulic fracturing fluid. Naturally occurring toxic chemicals may include radioactive material, salts, salts of manganese, chlorides, sodium bromides and heavy metals such as lead and arsenic.Radionuclides shown to be present in natural gas wastes include: radon, 226radium and 228radium and radionuclides of potassium, strontium, lead, thallium, bismuth and thorium. Radium in flow-back and produced water often incorporates into solids formed during wastewater treatment, thereby producing low level radioactive waste.12, 13
In protecting children from environmental health hazards, it is essential to recognize that for many reasons children may be more exposed to environmental health hazards than adults in the same location. Moreover, children may have different outcomes than adults similarly exposed. For example, children breathe more air and drink more water per unit of body weight than adults do, Therefore, if the air or water are contaminated, the children will receive a higher dose than the adults. Children also live longer than adults. While that may seem self-evident, it is important in the environmental context because many outcomes of environmental exposures occur years after the exposure. If the delay between exposure and outcome is, for example, 40 years or more, as it may well be in terms of some of the chronic lung diseases of adulthood, if a 60 year old adult is exposed, s/he may not live long enough to develop the adverse outcome. A child, however, will, in all likelihood, live long enough to experience that adverse outcome.
In summary, neither the industry, nor government agencies, nor other researchers have ever documented that UCG can be performed in a manner that minimizes risks to human health. There is now some evidence that these risks that many have been concerned about for a number of years are real risks. There is also much data to indicate that there are a number of toxic chemicals used or derived from the process, known or plausible routes of exposure of those chemicals to humans; and therefore, reason to place extreme limits on UGE. When and if industry can present the following information, it would then be reasonable to expect your agency and the communities which may become involved in UGE to make decisions on whether or not to proceed with UGE: 1) disclosing complete information of the composition of all materials used to make hydraulic fracturing fluid, 2) studying and disclosing information about all air contaminants released from well pads and the extent of their expected dispersion, 3) studying and disclosing information about mechanisms of water contamination and dispersion of contaminants in ground and surface waters, and 4) studying and disclosing information on the extent to which air and water pollution can reasonably be expected to be minimized. While this type of research should not be carried out by industry, it certainly should be funded by industry. Industry profits from UGE; and industry should bear the responsibility for determining how it can be done in the safest manner possible. Then, and only then, can regulatory and public health agencies and communities make reasonable decisions about whether or not UGE should proceed.
If you or your staff have any questions, I be happy to try to provide answers.
Jerome A. Paulson, MD, FAAP*
Medical Director for National & Global Affairs
Director of the Mid-Atlantic Center for Children’s Health & the Environment
Child Health Advocacy Institute
Children’s National Health System
Professor of Pediatrics and of Environmental & Occupational Health
George Washington University
*Jerome A. Paulson, MD, is a Professor of Pediatrics at the George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences and Professor of Environmental & Occupational Health at the GW Milken Institute School of Public Health. He is also the Director of the Mid-Atlantic Center for Children’s Health and the Environment (MACCHE) based at the Children’s National Health System. Dr Paulson has helped organize and was a presenter on a panel on Unconventional Gas Extraction at the 2011 American Public Health Association national meeting; and helped organize and was the lead-off speaker at the 2012 conference on the Public Health Aspects of Shale Gas Extraction jointly sponsored by Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy and MACCHE. He was an invited panelist at the May 2012 meeting on unconventional gas extraction organized by the George Washington University School of Public Health and the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry; and on the planning committee for a meeting on data collection related to water and air toxics exposures from unconventional gas extraction that was jointly sponsored by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Harvard Center for Environmental Health and MACCHE in December 2013.
MACCHE (www.childrensnational.org/MACCHE) is one of 10 Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units (PEHSUs) (www.pehsu.net) in the US. MACCHE serves Federal Region 3; i.e., Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, Virginia and the District of Columbia. It is funded by a grant from the Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics (AOEC) (www.aoec.org) which receives its funding for this project from the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (ATSDR) of the CDC and from the EPA. MACCHE receives no corporate funding. The two basic functions of MACCHE, and the other PEHSUs, are to provide education to health professionals and others about environmental issues that impact on the health of children and to answer questions from the public that are related to children, health and the environment. MACCHE has been receiving inquiries about the potential health impacts of unconventional natural gas extraction for at least the last 7 years.
While MACCHE is indirectly funded by ATSDR and the EPA, the opinions expressed in this letter do not represent the policy of either organization and have not been reviewed by either organization.
- Hill, E. Shale Gas Development and Infant Health: Evidence from Pennsylvania. Working paper. 2013. http://dyson.cornell.edu/research/researchpdf/wp/2012/Cornell-Dyson-wp1212.pdf
- McKenzie, LM, Guo, R, Witter, RZ, et al. Birth Outcomes and Maternal Residential Proximity to Natural Gas Development in Rural Colorado. Environmental Health Perspectives 122(4): 412-417. 2014. doi:10.1289/ehp.1306722
- Ferrar, KJ, Kriesky, J, Christen, CL, et al. Assessment and Longitudinal Analysis of Health Impacts and Stressors Perceived to Result from Unconventional Shale Gas Development in the Marcellus Shale Region. International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health 19(2): 104-112. 2013. doi:10.1179/2049396713Y.0000000024
- Bureau of Land Management. Environmental Assessment: Cache Creek Master Development Plan for Oil and Gas Exploration and Development, Garfield County, Colorado (DOI-BLM-CO-N040-2009-0088-EA). Silt, CO: Department of Interior, Bureau of Land Management. 2009.
- Witter, RZ, McKenzie, L, Stinson, KE, et al. The Use of Health Impact Assessment for a Community Undergoing Natural Gas Development. American Journal of Public Health 103(6): 1002-1010. 2013
- Colborn, T, Kwiatkowski, C, Schultz, K, et al. Natural Gas Operations from a Public Health Perspective. Hum Ecol Risk Assess 17(5): 1039-56. 2011.
- (The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) http://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Monographs/vol46/volume46.pdf)
- US National Toxicology Program http://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ntp/roc/twelfth/profiles/dieselexhaustparticulates.pdf
- US Environmental Protection Agency, Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS), http://www.epa.gov/iris/subst/0642.htm
- Osborn, SG, Vengosh, A, Warner, NR, et al. Methane Contamination of Drinking Water Accompanying Gas-Well Drilling and Hydraulic Fracturing. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 108(20): 8172-8176. 2011. doi:10.1073/pnas.1100682108
- Minority Staff, Committee on Energy & Commerce, US House of Representatives. 2011. Chemicals Used in Hydraulic Fracturing. http://democrats.energycommerce.house.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Hydraulic-Fracturing-Chemicals-2011-4-18.pdf
- Vidic, RD, Brantley, SL, Vandenbossche, JM, et al. Impact of Shale Gas Development on Regional Water Quality. Science 340(6134): 1235009. 2013. doi:10.1126/science.1235009
- Rich, AL, Crosby, EC. Analysis of Reserve Pit Sludge from Unconventional Natural Gas Hydraulic Fracturing and Drilling Operations for the Presence of Technologically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (TENORM). New Solutions 23(1): 117-135. 2013. doi:10.2190/NS.23.1.h
Field Survey of Health Perception and Complaints of Pennsylvania Residents in the Marcellus Shale Region
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.
Background: The United States has experienced a boom in natural gas production due to recent technological innovations that have enabled this resource to be produced from shale formations.
Objectives: This review discusses the body of evidence that focuses on exposure pathways to evaluate the potential environmental public health impacts of shale gas development. It highlights what is currently known and identifies data gaps and research limitations by addressing matters of toxicity, exposure pathways, air quality, and water quality.
Discussion: There is evidence of potential environmental public health risks associated with shale gas development. A number of studies suggest that shale gas development contributes to levels of ambient air concentrations known to be associated with increased risk of morbidity and mortality. Similarly, an increasing body of studies suggest water contamination risks exist through a variety of environmental pathways, most notably during wastewater transport and disposal and via poor zonal isolation of gases and fluids due to structural integrity impairment of cement in gas wells.
Conclusion: Despite a growing body of evidence, a number of data gaps persist. Most importantly, there is a need for more epidemiological studies to assess associations between risk factors, such as air and water pollution and health outcomes among populations living in close proximity to shale gas operations.
Case study descriptions of acute onset of respiratory, neurologic, dermal, vascular, abdominal, and gastrointestinal sequelae near natural gas facilities contrast with a subset of emissions research, which suggests that there is limited risk posed by unconventional natural gas development (UNGD). An inspection of the pathophysiological effects of acute toxic actions reveals that current environmental monitoring protocols are incompatible with the goal of protecting the health of those living and working near UNGD activities. The intensity, frequency, and duration of exposures to toxic materials in air and water determine the health risks to individuals within a population. Currently, human health risks near UNGD sites are derived from average population risks without adequate attention to the processes of toxicity to the body. The objective of this paper is to illustrate that current methods of collecting emissions data, as well as the analyses of these data, are not sufficient for accurately assessing risks to individuals or protecting the health of those near UNGD sites. Focusing on air pollution impacts, we examined data from public sources and from the published literature. We compared the methods commonly used to evaluate health safety near UNGD sites with the information that would be reasonably needed to determine plausible outcomes of actual exposures. Such outcomes must be based on the pathophysiological effects of the agents present and the susceptibility of residents near these sites. Our study has several findings. First, current protocols used for assessing compliance with ambient air standards do not adequately determine the intensity, frequency or durations of the actual human exposures to the mixtures of toxic materials released regularly at UNGD sites. Second, the typically used periodic 24-h average measures can underestimate actual exposures by an order of magnitude. Third, reference standards are set in a form that inaccurately determines health risk because they do not fully consider the potential synergistic combinations of toxic air emissions. Finally, air dispersion modeling shows that local weather conditions are strong determinates of individual exposures. Appropriate estimation of safety requires nested protocols that measure real time exposures. New protocols are needed to provide 1) continuous measures of a surrogate compound to show periods of extreme exposure; 2) a continuous screening model based on local weather conditions to warn of periodic high exposures; and 3) comprehensive detection of chemical mixtures using canisters or other devices that capture the major components of the mixtures.
Planning For Fracking on the Barnett Shale: Urban Air Pollution, Improving Health Based Regulation, and the Role of Local Governments
In the last decade hydraulic fracturing for natural gas has exploded on the Barnett Shale in Texas. The region is now home to the most intensive hydraulic fracking and gas production activities ever undertaken in densely urbanized areas. Faced with minimal state and federal regulation, Texas cities are on the front line in the effort to figure out how best to balance industry, land use, and environmental concerns. Local governments in Texas, however, do not currently have the regulatory authority, capacity, or the information required to close the regulatory gap. Using the community experience on the Barnett Shale as a case study, this article focuses on the legal and regulatory framework governing air emissions and proposes changes to the current regulatory structure.
Under both the state and federal programs, the regulation of hazardous air emissions from gas operations is based largely on questions of cost and available technology. There is no comprehensive cumulative risk assessment to consider the potential impact to public health in urban areas. Drilling operations are being conducted in residential areas. Residents living in close proximity to gas operations on the Barnett Shale have voiced serious concerns for their health, which have yet to be comprehensively evaluated. Given the complexity of the science, and the dearth of clear, transparent, and enforceable standards, inadequate studies and limited statistical analysis have been allowed to provide potentially false assurances. The politically expedient bottom line dominates with little attention paid to the quality of the science or the adequacy of the standards.
Determining and applying comprehensive health-based standards for hazardous air pollutants has been largely abandoned at the federal level given uncertainties in the science, difficulties of determining and measuring “safe” levels of toxic pollutants, and the potential for economic disruption. Neither the state nor the federal government has set enforceable ambient standards for hazardous air pollutants. Identifying cumulative air pollution problems that may occur in urban areas, the State of California has called upon local governments to identify “hot spots” and to consider air quality issues in their planning and zoning actions. In Texas, however, preemption discussions dominate the analysis. Any local government regulation that might provide protection from toxic air emissions otherwise regulated by the State must be justified by some other public purpose.
Texas should consider authorizing and encouraging local level air quality planning for industrial activities, similar to what California has done. Care should be taken to separate these facilities from sensitive receptors and “hot spots” that may already be burdened with excessive hazardous air emissions. Given the difficulty of the task, there is also an important role for the state and federal governments in working to establish ambient standards for hazardous air pollutants, as well as standards for health based assessment and public communication. The uncertainty inherent in any of these standards should be made clear and accessible to local governments so that it may be considered in making appropriate and protective land use decisions. Texas should consider allowing local governments to have the power to establish ambient air quality standards, emissions limitations, monitoring, reporting, and offsets for hazardous air pollutants, following the model applied to conventional air pollutants pursuant to the federal program.
Oil and gas wells and their integrity: Implications for shale and unconventional resource exploitation*
Data from around the world (Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Brazil, Canada, the Netherlands, Poland, the UK and the USA) show that more than four million onshore hydrocarbon wells have been drilled globally. Here we assess all the reliable datasets (25) on well barrier and integrity failure in the published literature and online. These datasets include production, injection, idle and abandoned wells, both onshore and offshore, exploiting both conventional and unconventional reservoirs. The datasets vary considerably in terms of the number of wells examined, their age and their designs. Therefore the percentage of wells that have had some form of well barrier or integrity failure is highly variable (1.9%–75%). Of the 8030 wells targeting the Marcellus shale inspected in Pennsylvania between 2005 and 2013, 6.3% of these have been reported to the authorities for infringements related to well barrier or integrity failure. In a separate study of 3533 Pennsylvanian wells monitored between 2008 and 2011, there were 85 examples of cement or casing failures, 4 blowouts and 2 examples of gas venting. In the UK, 2152 hydrocarbon wells were drilled onshore between 1902 and 2013 mainly targeting conventional reservoirs. UK regulations, like those of other jurisdictions, include reclamation of the well site after well abandonment. As such, there is no visible evidence of 65.2% of these well sites on the land surface today and monitoring is not carried out. The ownership of up to 53% of wells in the UK is unclear; we estimate that between 50 and 100 are orphaned. Of 143 active UK wells that were producing at the end of 2000, one has evidence of a well integrity failure.
*Note: Funding includes industry sources.
Oil and natural gas production in the Western United States has grown rapidly in recent years, and with this industrial expansion, growing environmental concerns have arisen regarding impacts on water supplies and air quality. Recent studies have revealed highly enhanced atmospheric levels of volatile organic compounds (VOC) from primary emissions in regions of heavy oil and gas development and associated rapid photochemical production of ozone during winter. Here, we present surface and vertical profile observations of VOC from the Uintah Basin Winter Ozone Studies conducted in January – February of 2012 and 2013. These measurements identify highly elevated levels of atmospheric alkane hydrocarbons with enhancement rates of C2 – C6 non-methane hydrocarbon (NMHC) mean mole fractions during temperature inversion events in 2013at 200-300 times above the regional and seasonal background. Elevated atmospheric NMHC mole fractions coincided with build-up of ambient 1-hour ozone to levels exceeding 150 ppbv (parts per billion by volume). The total annual mass flux of C2-C7 VOC was estimated at 194 ± 56 x 106 kg yr-1, equivalent to the annual VOC emissions of a fleet of ~100 million automobiles. Total annual fugitive emission of the aromatic compounds benzene and toluene, considered air toxics, were estimated at 1.6 ± 0.4 x 106 and 2.0 ± 0.5 x 106 kg yr-1, respectively. These observations reveal a strong causal link between oil and gas emissions, accumulation of air toxics, and significant surface production in the atmospheric surface layer.
This citation database provides bibliographic information, abstracts, and links to many of the vetted scientific papers housed in the PSE Healthy Energy Library, as well as other peer-reviewed journal articles. This database is a near exhaustive and evolving list of the peer-reviewed literature that directly pertains to shale gas and tight oil development. This literature is organized into twelve different categories, including air quality, water quality, climate, public health, and regulations. PSE Healthy Energy does not necessarily support the methods and the findings of the studies included in this database.
Potential Public Health Hazards, Exposures and Health Effects from Unconventional Natural Gas Development
The rapid increase in unconventional natural gas (UNG) development in the United States during the past decade has brought wells and related infrastructure closer to population centers. This review evaluates risks to public health from chemical and nonchemical stressors associated with UNG, describes likely exposure pathways and potential health effects, and identifies major uncertainties to address with future research. The most important occupational stressors include mortality, exposure to hazardous materials and increased risk of industrial accidents. For communities near development and production sites the major stressors are air pollutants, ground and surface water contamination, truck traffic and noise pollution, accidents and malfunctions, and psychosocial stress associated with community change. Despite broad public concern, no comprehensive population-based studies of the public health effects of UNG operations exist. Major uncertainties are the unknown frequency and duration of human exposure, future extent of development, potential emission control and mitigation strategies, and a paucity of baseline data to enable substantive before and after comparisons for affected populations and environmental media. Overall, the current literature suggests that research needs to address these uncertainties before we can reasonably quantify the likelihood of occurrence or magnitude of adverse health effects associated with UNG production in workers and communities.
Statement from Concerned Health Professionals of New York Regarding the Investigation on Air Pollution and Fracking by InsideClimate News/The Center for Public Integrity/The Weather Channel
In response to the release of the eight-month investigation
“The extensive investigation into air pollution from drilling and fracking operations in the Eagle Ford Shale of southern Texas has documented–in otherwise rural communities–alarming levels of highly toxic air pollutants. These include benzene, a proven cause of leukemia, and poisonous hydrogen sulfide gas, which, at acute levels, can be lethal and, at chronic levels, is linked to both brain damage and risk of miscarriage in pregnant women.
“These results are consistent with existing and emerging research from Colorado, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. All together, these studies create a startling picture of the harms that fracking can bring to human communities. As health professionals, we possess not only a duty to inquire but an obligation to take action to prevent further harm.”
Schuyler County Health Care Professionals call for Halt to Propane and Natural Gas Storage along Seneca Lake
Background: Birth defects are a leading cause of neonatal mortality. Natural gas development (NGD) emits several potential teratogens and US production is expanding.
Objectives: We examined associations between maternal residential proximity to NGD and birth outcomes in a retrospective cohort study of 124,842 births between 1996 and 2009 in rural Colorado.
Methods: We calculated inverse distance weighted natural gas well counts within a 10-mile radius of maternal residence to estimate maternal exposure to NGD. Logistic regression, adjusted for maternal and infant covariates, was used to estimate associations with exposure tertiles for congenital heart defects (CHDs), neural tube defects (NTDs), oral clefts, preterm birth, and term low birth weight. The Association with term birth weight was investigated using multiple linear regression.
Results: Prevalence of CHDs increased with exposure tertile, with an odds ratio (OR) of 1.3 for the highest tertile (95% CI: 1.2, 1.5) and NTD prevalence was associated with the highest tertile of exposure (OR = 2.0, 95% CI: 1.0, 3.9, based on 59 cases), compared to no gas wells within a 10-mile radius. Exposure was negatively associated with preterm birth and positively associated with fetal growth, though the magnitude of association was small. No association was found between exposure and oral clefts.
Conclusions: In this large cohort, we observed an association between density and proximity of natural gas wells within a 10-mile radius of maternal residence and prevalence of CHDs and possibly NTDs. Greater specificity in exposure estimates are needed to further explore these associations.
Statement by Concerned Health Professionals of New York in Response to a New Study on Hormone-disrupting Contaminants in Water Near Colorado Drilling Sites*
Of the 700-plus chemicals that can be used in drilling and fracking operations, more than 100 are known or suspected endocrine disruptors. Unique among toxic agents, endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) interfere with hormonal signals, are biologically active at exceedingly low concentrations, and, when exposures occur in early life, can alter pathways of development.
In a two-part study published on December 16 in the journal Endocrinology, a team of researchers led by Susan Nagel at the University of Missouri reported a variety of potent endocrine-disrupting properties in twelve chemicals commonly used in drilling and fracking operations. The team also documented potent endocrine-disrupting activity in ground and surface water supplies collected from heavily drilled areas in Garfield County, Colorado where fracking chemicals are known to have spilled. The levels of chemicals in these samples were sufficient to interfere with the response of human cells to male sex hormones, as well as estrogen. Five samples taken from the Colorado River itself showed estrogenic activity. The catchment basin for this drilling-dense area, the Colorado provides water to 30 million people.
These results, which are based on validated cell cultures, demonstrate that public health concerns about fracking are well-founded and extend to our hormone systems. The stakes could not be higher. Exposure to EDCs has been variously linked to breast cancer, infertility, birth defects, and learning disabilities. Scientists have identified no safe threshold of exposure for EDCs, especially for pregnant women, infants, and children.
Contact: Sandra Steingraber, PhD
* C.D. Kassotis, D.E. Tillitt, J.W. Davis, A.M. Hormann, and S.C. Nagel, Estrogen and Androgen Receptor Activities of Hydraulic Fracturing Chemicals and Surface and Ground Water in a Drilling-Dense Region, Endocrinology en.2013-1697; doi:10.1210/en.2013-1697
Estrogen and Androgen Receptor Activities of Hydraulic Fracturing Chemicals and Surface and Ground Water in a Drilling-Dense Region
The rapid rise in natural gas extraction utilizing hydraulic fracturing increases the potential for contamination of surface and ground water from chemicals used throughout the process. Hundreds of products containing more than 750 chemicals and components are potentially used throughout the extraction process, including over one hundred known or suspected endocrine disrupting chemicals. We hypothesized that a selected subset of chemicals used in natural gas drilling operations and also surface and ground water samples collected in a drilling-dense region of Garfield County, CO would exhibit estrogen and androgen receptor activities. Water samples were collected, solid-phase extracted, and measured for estrogen and androgen receptor activities using reporter gene assays in human cell lines. Of the 39 unique water samples, 89%, 41%, 12%, and 46% exhibited estrogenic, anti-estrogenic, androgenic, and anti-androgenic activities, respectively. Testing of a subset of natural gas drilling chemicals revealed novel anti-estrogenic, novel anti-androgenic, and limited estrogenic activities. The Colorado River, the drainage basin for this region, exhibited moderate levels of estrogenic, anti-estrogenic, and anti-androgenic activities, suggesting that higher localized activity at sites with known natural gas related spills surrounding the river might be contributing to the multiple receptor activities observed in this water source. The majority of water samples collected from sites in a drilling-dense region of Colorado exhibited more estrogenic, anti-estrogenic, or anti-androgenic activities than reference sites with limited nearby drilling operations. Our data suggest that natural gas drilling operations may result in elevated EDC activity in surface and ground water.