A Yale-led study suggests that natural gas drilling activities could be associated with increased reports of dermal and upper respiratory symptoms in nearby communities.  The study, “Proximity to Natural Gas Wells and Reported Health Status: Results of a Household Survey in Washington County, Pennsylvania,” was published in Environmental Health Perspectives.

Researchers affiliated with Yale University, University of Washington, and Colorado State University conducted a health symptom survey of 492 persons in 180 randomly selected households with ground-fed water wells in southwestern Pennsylvania’s Washington County.  The county was, at the time of the survey, home to 624 active natural gas wells.  The survey sought information regarding dermal, respiratory, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and neurological symptoms.  Respondents also answered questions about environmental hazards in the community, air quality, water quality, soil quality and environmental noise, odor, and traffic concerns.

The survey results reportedly showed that individuals living in households less than 2 km from natural gas wells were more likely to report having the queried skin conditions over that past year than residents of household more than 2 km from a well.  Reported upper respiratory symptoms were also more frequent among the households less than 2 km from a well.

The study notes several significant limitations including reliance on self-reports of health conditions, and multiple comparisons between groups of households that raise the possibility that random error could account for the findings.

Additional commentary on the potential limitations of the study, and its findings, can be found at: http://energyindepth.org/national/yale-health-study-misses-the-mark-on-fracking/

While the study suggests the possibility that hydraulic fracturing may be associated with various health concerns, it should be viewed, according to its authors, only as “hypothesis generating.”  The research was an association study, and did not draw conclusions about causation.  The authors note “[f]urther study of these associations, including the role of specific air and water exposures, is warranted.”

The study can be found here:

http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/1307732/