One-third of Fracking Health Complaints In Pennsylvania Involve Noise

One-third of Fracking Health Complaints in Pennsylvania Involve Noise

Almost one-third (32.7%) of complaints lodged to the Pennsylvania Department of Health about hydraulic fracturing in unconventional gas wells in Pennsylvania (fracking)  involve noise. The Pennsylvania Department of Health maintains an Oil and Natural Gas Production Health Registry to field complaints about the alleged health effects of fracking activity in the Commonwealth.

With 11,186 active wells, some in close proximity to residential homes, public health officials raise growing concerns over the adverse mental and physical health effects of fracking. Those concerns include the effects of noise.

 UONGD [Unconventional Oil and Natural Gas Development] may negatively impact water, air and soil quality. It may also involve excessive noise, light and vibrations from seismic testing and cause vehicular injuries from increased truck traffic or other injuries or emergencies from well explosions or flooding….Together these factors may directly impact health or indirectly impact health through increased stress, anxiety and reduced sleep. —Pennsylvania Department of Health

New Epidemiological Study of Pennsylvania Fracking

In December 2020, the Pennsylvania Department of Health announced a $2.5 million epidemiological study specifically focused on fracking and health. The University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health will conduct the study of potential health effects.

Concerns Raised About Fracking and Health

Critics of fracking cite the lack of comprehensive studies of fracking and health despite 11,186 active wells already. Those concerned note that the few studies completed have suggested adverse health effects especially on infants and youth.

The December 2020 edition of the Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking (Unconventional Gas and Oil Extraction) goes further and includes an extensive section (see pages 216-225) on noise pollution effects and extensive citations to noise effects throughout (136 citations).

According to the Compendium:

Drilling and fracking operations and ancillary infrastructure expose workers and nearby residents to continuous noise and light pollution that is sustained for periods lasting many months. Chronic exposure to light at night is linked to adverse health effects, including breast cancer.

Sources of fracking-related noise pollution include blasting, drilling, flaring, generators, compressor stations, and truck traffic. Noise-mitigating sound barriers do not always resolve complaints of nearby residents. Exposure to environmental noise pollution is linked to cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment, and sleep disturbance. In Colorado, noise measured during construction and drilling of a large, multi-well pad in a residential area exceeded levels knowns to increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases and hypertension. (p.216)

Noise pollution may also be negatively affecting wildlife and communities.

Conclusion

The new epidemiological study responds to critics with a research-based analysis of health specific to Pennsylvania.