Study: Counties with fracking have increased rates of STIs

March 28, 2018, Yale University
Study: Counties with fracking have increased rates of STIs
Fracking and STIs. Credit: iStock

Researchers at the Yale School of Public Health have discovered that the rates of two major sexually transmitted infections (STIs), gonorrhea and chlamydia, are 21% and 19% higher, respectively, in Ohio counties with high shale gas activity ("fracking"), compared to counties without any fracking. Rates of a third STI, syphilis, were not elevated.

The findings are published in the journal PLOS One.

Shale gas extraction is associated with large influxes of specialized, trained workers into rural areas to meet the labor demands of the drilling rigs, and commonly involves the formation of "work camps" composed of relatively young men. The influx of workers in these situations is thought to increase STI risk because male workers typically live and socialize in communities with masculinized social norms, do not bring families and thus have opportunities to seek other sex partners, and may have few emotional ties to the local community.

"Beyond some of the more familiar concerns about water quality and earthquakes, this report of increased rates of two major suggests another potential impact in communities hosting the emerging shale gas industry," said lead author Nicole Deziel, Ph.D., assistant professor at the Yale School of Public Health.

The study examined new well permits and reported STI cases, obtained from publicly available datasets, in all 88 Ohio counties from 2000 to 2016; this long follow-up period covered both pre- and post-fracking periods to account for any pre-existing trends in STI rates. The researchers accounted for several other factors, such as population density and age, using variables obtained from the US Census.

"Similar patterns have been observed for other migratory labor movements, but the idea that this could be occurring for the current situation of increased hydraulic fracturing in the United States is only beginning to emerge," said senior author Linda Niccolai, Ph.D., Professor at the Yale School of Public Health. "These findings point to the potential importance of new extraction activities as a social determinant of health, one that changes the collective fabric of communities in a way that increases risk for STI transmission."

The fracking industry has rapidly expanded over the past decade, particularly in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Colorado, Texas and North Dakota. In contrast, other states, such as New York and Maryland, have banned the practice.

"The link between fracking and STIs needs to be studied in other regions before it could be considered conclusive; however, our results may be useful in informing local officials and policy makers, as there are effective community-level interventions for reducing transmission of STIs," said Deziel. "Further, this study adds to the growing body of evidence of other possible health problems in populations living near fracking sites, such as asthma symptoms or premature births."

Explore further: Scotland says no to fracking

More information: Nicole C. Deziel et al. Shale gas activity and increased rates of sexually transmitted infections in Ohio, 2000–2016, PLOS ONE (2018). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0194203

Related Stories

Scotland says no to fracking

October 3, 2017
Fracking will be banned in Scotland following a widespread public backlash against onshore drilling, the government said on Tuesday.

Study finds communities need to be proactive about fracking

July 29, 2016
What are communities doing to address the potential adverse effects of fracking? Not a lot, according to the results of a new study.

Pennsylvania correlates natural gas fracking with quakes

February 17, 2017
Pennsylvania environmental regulators have found a likely correlation between a natural gas company's fracking operation and a series of tiny earthquakes in western Pennsylvania last year.

Study to inform Maryland decision on "fracking"

August 20, 2014
The Maryland Department of Environment and Department of Health and Mental Hygiene released on August 18, 2014, a report by the University of Maryland School of Public Health, which assesses the potential public health effects ...

Study: Unconventional natural gas wells associated with migraine, fatigue

August 25, 2016
New research suggests that Pennsylvania residents with the highest exposure to active natural gas wells operated by the hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") industry are nearly twice as likely to suffer from a combination of ...

Study suggests hydraulic fracturing boosts local economies

December 23, 2016
The first nationwide study of the comprehensive local impacts of hydraulic fracturing finds that when costs and benefits are added up, communities on average benefit from allowing it.

Recommended for you

Deadly Rift Valley fever: New insight, and hope for the future

July 19, 2018
Health control measures alone could be ineffective in the long term fight against the deadly Rift Valley fever which affects both humans and animals, a new study in the journal PNAS reports.

New guidelines to diagnose, manage rare endocrine disorders

July 19, 2018
International guidelines have been published for the first time to help doctors around the globe diagnose and manage patients with a very rare set of endocrine diseases known as pseudohypoparathyroidism and its related disorders, ...

Overuse of antibiotics not what the doctor ordered

July 19, 2018
With increased use of antibiotics worldwide linked to growing antibiotic resistance, a world-first study co-authored by a QUT researcher has highlighted the growing impact of non-prescription supply of antibiotics in community ...

Alcohol-related cirrhosis deaths skyrocket in young adults

July 18, 2018
Deaths from cirrhosis rose in all but one state between 1999-2016, with increases seen most often among young adults, a new study shows.

Hidden blood in feces may signal deadly conditions

July 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Even if it's not visible to the naked eye, blood in the stool can be serious—a sign of a potentially fatal disease other than colon cancer, new research suggests.

Childhood abuse linked to greater risk of endometriosis, study finds

July 17, 2018
Endometriosis, a painful condition that affects one in 10 reproductive-age women in the U.S., has been linked to childhood physical and sexual abuse, according to findings published today in the journal Human Reproduction.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.