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Marcellus Issues in West Virginia: An Introduction

Public Health Issues

The most commonly discussed public health issues are effects of natural gas drilling on air and water quality, but communities can also experience increases in violence and cases of sexually transmitted diseases.

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences sponsored a webinar titled Hydraulic Fracking and Environmental Public Health (90 minutes long) that provides an overview of the issues:

The Department of Environmental Protection has a document explaining risk assessment.

A number of public health studies on the effects of natural gas drilling in Garfield county, Colorado have been created and serve as a model for what types of research need to be conducted in West Virginia.

Health Impact Assessment for Battlement Mesa, Garfield County Colorado by Roxana Witter et al (2010). This is an important study examining all the impacts to a community due to natural gas drilling. Appendix D (2011) is a more technical paper about health impacts of particular and cumulative constituents. There's also an earlier (2008) public health study that is less technical.

In 2008 the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service) conducted a Health Impact Study for Garfield county related to high Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) measured in the air near some well sites. This presentation discusses "Public Health Implications of Ambient Air Exposures to Volatile Organic Compounds as Measured in Rural, Urban, and Oil & Gas Development Areas."

In 2008 Raj Goyal produced a public presentation, "Air Toxic Inhalation: Overview of Screening-Level Health Risk Assessment for Garfield County," that discusses health risk assessment and particular well emissions.

Another public health concern is the long and short term effects on its workers within the natural gas drilling and production industry. It's already acknowledged that workers have a higher workplace mortality rate than miners, for instance [need link/document].

There has been little work in this country done by industry to examine the health of its workers, unlike other countries. The Australian Health Watch study, conducted over a number of years, is one example of this type of study. This is the 2007 study (13th report). In 2001, Health Watch conducted a special study to determine the relationship between workers' benzene exposure and certain types of cancer. This case study found a strong relationship between single large concentration exposures and resultant cancer.


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