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Environ Res. 2018 Nov;167:550-557. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2018.08.022. Epub 2018 Aug 17.

A community-based evaluation of proximity to unconventional oil and gas wells, drinking water contaminants, and health symptoms in Ohio.

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Yale School of Public Health, Yale University, 60 College Street, New Haven, CT 06510, USA.
Yale School of Engineering and Applied Science, Yale University, 17 Hillhouse Avenue, New Haven, CT 06510 USA.
Yale School of Public Health, Yale University, 60 College Street, New Haven, CT 06510, USA. Electronic address:


Over 4 million Americans live within 1.6 km of an unconventional oil and gas (UO&G) well, potentially placing them in the path of toxic releases. We evaluated relationships between residential proximity to UO&G wells and (1) water contamination and (2) health symptoms in an exploratory study. We analyzed drinking water samples from 66 Ohio households for 13 UO&G-related volatile organic compounds (VOCs) (e.g., benzene, disinfection byproducts [DBPs]), gasoline-range organics (GRO), and diesel-range organics. We interviewed participants about health symptoms and calculated metrics capturing proximity to UO&G wells. Based on multivariable logistic regression, odds of detection of bromoform and dibromochloromethane in surface water decreased significantly as distance to nearest UO&G well increased (odds ratios [OR]: 0.28-0.29 per km). Similarly, distance to nearest well was significantly negatively correlated with concentrations of GRO and toluene in ground water (rSpearman: -0.40 to -0.44) and with concentrations of bromoform and dibromochloromethane in surface water (rSpearman: -0.48 to -0.50). In our study population, those with higher inverse-distance-squared-weighted UO&G well counts within 5 km around the home were more likely to report experiencing general health symptoms (e.g. stress, fatigue) (OR: 1.52, 95%CI: 1.02-2.26). This exploratory study, though limited by small sample size and self-reported health symptoms, suggests that those in closer proximity to multiple UO&G wells may be more likely to experience environmental health impacts. Further, presence of brominated DBPs (linked to UO&G wastewater) raises the question of whether UO&G activities are impacting drinking water sources in the region. The findings from this study support expanded studies to advance knowledge of the potential for water quality and human health impacts; such studies could include a greater number of sampling sites, more detailed chemical analyses to examine source attribution, and objective health assessments.


Environmental exposure; Human health; Hydraulic fracturing; Unconventional oil and gas; Water contaminants

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