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Review Advance Publication

Environ Health Perspect; DOI:10.1289/ehp.1307866

Environmental Public Health Dimensions of Shale and Tight Gas Development

Seth B. Shonkoff,1,2 Jake Hays,3,4 and Madelon L. Finkel4
Author Affiliations close
1Physicians Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy, Oakland, California, USA; 2Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California, USA; 3Physicians Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy, New York, New York, USA; 4Department of Public Health, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, New York, USA
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This EHP Advance Publication article has been peer-reviewed, revised, and accepted for publication. EHP Advance Publication articles are completely citable using the DOI number assigned to the article. This document will be replaced with the copyedited and formatted version as soon as it is available. Through the DOI number used in the citation, you will be able to access this document at each stage of the publication process.

Citation: Shonkoff SB, Hays J, Finkel ML. Environmental Public Health Dimensions of Shale and Tight Gas Development. Environ Health Perspect;

Received: 9 November 2013
Accepted: 2 April 2014
Advance Publication: 16 April 2014

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Background: The United States has experienced a boom in natural gas production due to recent technological innovations that have enabled this resource to be produced from shale formations.

Objectives: This review discusses the body of evidence that focuses on exposure pathways to evaluate the potential environmental public health impacts of shale gas development. It highlights what is currently known and identifies data gaps and research limitations by addressing matters of toxicity, exposure pathways, air quality, and water quality.

Discussion: There is evidence of potential environmental public health risks associated with shale gas development. A number of studies suggest that shale gas development contributes to levels of ambient air concentrations known to be associated with increased risk of morbidity and mortality. Similarly, an increasing body of studies suggest water contamination risks exist through a variety of environmental pathways, most notably during wastewater transport and disposal and via poor zonal isolation of gases and fluids due to structural integrity impairment of cement in gas wells.

Conclusion: Despite a growing body of evidence, a number of data gaps persist. Most importantly, there is a need for more epidemiological studies to assess associations between risk factors, such as air and water pollution and health outcomes among populations living in close proximity to shale gas operations.

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