Health and Well-ness: Analysis of Key Public Health Indicators in Six of the Most Heavily Drilled Marcellus Shale Counties in Pennsylvania

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Title: Health and Well-ness: Analysis of Key Public Health Indicators in Six of the Most Heavily Drilled Marcellus Shale Counties in Pennsylvania

Author: Susan E. Mickley, MPH Freelance Health Research Consultant Lehigh Valley

Publisher: Energy In-Depth

Date: December 2017

Full Text Article

Summary:

This report reviews mortality rates by selected major causes of death, as reported by each county to the Pennsylvania Department of Health,2 for the Pennsylvania counties of Bradford, Greene, Lycoming, Susquehanna, Tioga and Washington, from 2000 (prior to the onset of shale development) through 2014. These counties were chosen because they represent the top Marcellus counties, or those with the most significant oil and gas development (900 or more wells)3 since the first Marcellus Shale well was developed in Pennsylvania in 2004 and Marcellus development began in earnest in 2006. By analyzing any consistent relationship between the health data and the advent of shale development in these counties, one can determine the credibility of linking unconventional gas development to changes in health outcomes in these counties.

Major findings in the report include:

  •  There was no identifiable impact on death rates in the six counties attributable to the introduction of unconventional oil and gas development. In fact, the top Marcellus counties experienced declines in mortality rates in most of the indices.
  •  The proportion of elderly-to-total population increased significantly in the top Marcellus counties compared to the state. Based on this fact, death rates in these six counties would be expected to increase, but this expected increase did not occur.
  • During the period that unconventional gas development was introduced to these counties, the trends reflected a positive economic change in the area. Therefore, any increases in the death rates in the top Marcellus counties cannot be associated with negative changes to the economic viability of the population.
  •  Unconventional gas development was not associated with an increase in infant mortality in the top Marcellus counties, as the mortality rate significantly declined (improved), even surpassing the improvement of the state.
  • Unconventional gas development was not associated with an increase in deaths related to chronic lower respiratory disease (including asthma) in the top Marcellus counties, as the overall chronic lower respiratory disease mortality rate declined (improved) or was variable for the six-county area. The only exception was Greene County where the increased mortality rate was consistent with the increase in the elderly population.
  •  Unconventional gas development was not associated with an increase in deaths related to cancer, heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, influenza or pneumonia, nephritis or nephrotic syndrome, or septicemia in the top Marcellus counties, as the mortality rates significantly declined (improved).

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