Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Advancing understanding of exposure and health impacts of unconventional oil and gas development: A community-based environmental health study in Ohio
by Elliott, Elise Grace, Ph.D., Yale University, 2017, 140; 10633243
Abstract (Summary)

Unconventional oil and gas (UO&G) development refers to the extraction of fossil fuels from previously untapped deposits in deep shale rock and other tight formations using hydraulic fracturing in combination with new horizontal drilling technologies. Over 1,000 chemicals are involved in or produced by UO&G activities. The widespread distribution of UO&G wells and other facilities in the United States potentially exposes millions of people to air and water pollutants, including known or suspected toxic or carcinogenic agents. Adverse birth outcomes and childhood leukemia are of particular concern because of the disease severity, vulnerable population, and short disease latency. Recent epidemiological studies have found associations with congenital heart defects, lower birth weight, preterm birth, and childhood leukemia. However, results have been inconsistent, likely due in part to limitations and inconsistencies in the exposure assessment. These studies have used proximity-based metrics to capture exposure to UO&G A critical gap is whether people living in communities in close proximity to UO&G operations experience increased exposure to etiologically relevant compounds. The overarching goal of this work was to address this knowledge gap.

The first project aimed to prioritize the >1000 chemicals in fracturing fluids and wastewater to inform future environmental sampling and health studies by conducting a screening-level evaluation of the reproductive and developmental toxicity of the chemicals (Chapter 2). For our first aim, we identified 67 chemicals detected in hydraulic fracturing fluids and/or wastewater with evidence of reproductive and/or developmental toxicity and with an existing water quality standard or health guideline.

The second project aimed to assess the evidence of carcinogenicity and leukemogenicity of water contaminants and air pollutants related to UO&G development (Chapter 3). For our second aim, we identified 55 air and water pollutants that are known, probable, or possible carcinogens. Of these, 20 chemicals had evidence of an increased risk of leukemia and/or lymphoma. The findings from the first and second aims identified health relevant chemicals associated with UO&G development to inform the final project. The final project aimed to examine whether there are associations between residential proximity to UO&G development and (1) drinking water contaminants, and (2) reported health symptoms in a community in close proximity to UO&G development (Chapter 4). For our final aim, we observed correlations between residential proximity to UO&G wells and detection of health-relevant organic compounds in drinking water and correlations between residential proximity to UO&G wells and existing as well as new or increased health symptoms. Our findings improve the literature on UO&G development and support further investigation into the environmental health impacts of UO&G development.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Deziel, Nicole Cardello
School: Yale University
School Location: United States -- Connecticut
Source: DAI-B 78/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Environmental Health, Public health
Keywords: Carcinogens, Development Toxicity, Environmental Contaminants, Hydraulic Fracturing, Reproductive Toxicity, Unconventional Oil and Gas
Publication Number: 10633243
ISBN: 978-0-355-10535-3
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