Associations between unconventional natural gas development and nasal and sinus, migraine headache, and fatigue symptoms in Pennsylvania

Aaron W. Tustin, Annemarie G. Hirsch, Sara G. Rasmussen, Joan A. Casey, Karen J Bandeen Roche, Brian S Schwartz

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Background: Unconventional natural gas development (UNGD) produces environmental contaminants and psychosocial stressors. Despite these concerns, few studies have evaluated the health effects of UNGD. Objectives: We investigated associations between UNGD activity and symptoms in a cross-sectional study in Pennsylvania. Methods: We mailed a self-administered questionnaire to 23,700 adult patients of the Geisinger Clinic. Using standardized and validated questionnaire items, we identified respondents with chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS), migraine headache, and fatigue symptoms. We created a summary UNGD activity metric that incorporated well phase, location, total depth, daily gas production and inverse distance–squared to patient residences. We used logistic regression, weighted for sampling and response rates, to assess associations between quartiles of UNGD activity and outcomes, both alone and in combination. Results: The response rate was 33%. Of 7,785 study participants, 1,850 (24%) had current CRS symptoms, 1,765 (23%) had migraine headache, and 1,930 (25%) had higher levels of fatigue. Among individuals who met criteria for two or more outcomes, adjusted odds ratios for the highest quartile of UNGD activity compared with the lowest were [OR (95% CI)] 1.49 (0.78, 2.85) for CRS plus migraine, 1.88 (1.08, 3.25) for CRS plus fatigue, 1.95 (1.18, 3.21) for migraine plus fatigue, and 1.84 (1.08, 3.14) for all three outcomes together. Significant associations were also present in some models of single outcomes. Conclusions: This study provides evidence that UNGD is associated with nasal and sinus, migraine headache, and fatigue symptoms in a general population representative sample.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)189-197
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Health Perspectives
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2017


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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