Public health and gas development
Where oil and gas development goes, health problems often follow.
Yet industry representatives and policymakers seeking to expand drilling often dismiss claims of health impacts as “personal anecdotes” and isolated incidents.
The primary reasons that public health risks posed by increasing gas development can be disputed:
- A lack of established science. Widespread scientific investigation has only recently begun to investigate the relationship between gas development and public health impacts.
- State governments, which are largely responsible for protecting the public from irresponsible oil and gas development, have until recently refused to consider the issue.
- Even as they have become widespread, individual reports of health problems in the gas patch have been continually dismissed as anecdotal by industry and government.
To investigate the connection, between August 2011 and July 2012 Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project (OGAP) researched the extent, types, and possible causes of health symptoms experienced by people living in the gas patches of Pennsylvania.
The main conclusions of the project -- Gas Patch Roulette: How Shale Gas Development Risks Public Health in Pennsylvania:
- Contaminants associated with oil and gas development are present in air and water in many communities where development is occurring.
- Many residents have developed health symptoms that they did not have before—indicating the strong possibility that they are occurring because of gas development.
- By permitting widespread gas development without fully understanding its impacts to public health—and using that lack of knowledge to justify regulatory inaction—Pennsylvania and other states are risking the public’s health.
Gas Patch Roulette documents:
- Press release
- Gas Patch Roulette: Summary Report (4 pages)
- Gas Patch Roulette: Full Report (51 pages)
For more information:
Additional information and data tables to support some of the analysis and charts found in the report.
- Association of symptoms and distance from facilities, by age group - Data associated with Figure 1
- Data on Air Tests Results by County
- List of Symptoms Associated with Chemicals Detected in Air Tests
- Data related to Figure 4: Differences in symptoms based on respondents with water and air tests
Related Earthworks publications dealing with the health impacts of oil and gas development
- Californians at Risk -- An Analysis of Health Threats from Oil and Gas Pollution in Two Communities (2015)
- Blackout in the Gas Patch -- How Pennsylvania Residents are Left in the Dark on Health and Enforcement (2014)
- Reckless Endangerment While Fracking the Eagle Ford Shale -- Government fails, public health suffers and industry profits from the shale oil boom (2013)
- Natural Gas Flowback: the Dark Side of the Boom -- How the Texas natural gas boom affects community health and safety (2011)
- Health Survey Results of Current and Former DISH/Clark, Texas Residents (2009)
- Community Survey Reveals Health Impacts in Pavillion, WY Gasfield (2010)
- Colorado Health and Toxics
- Understanding your Water and Air Tests (2012)