Noise Pollution From Oil and Gas Development May Harm Human Health
Modern oil and gas development techniques such as directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing produce noise at levels that may increase the risk of adverse effects on human health, including sleep disturbance, cardiovascular disease, and other conditions that are negatively affeted by stress, according to a study by authors at the nonprofit science and policy research institute, PSE Healthy Energy and West Virginia University. It is the first peer-reviewed study to analyze the potential public health effects of ambient noise related to hydraulic fracturing operations.
“People living near oil and gas development may bring up concerns like air pollution, traffic, and groundwater safety, but many also complain about noise,” said Jake Hays, director of the Environmental Health Program at PSE Healthy Energy and lead author of the paper, which was published 9 December in Science of the Total Environment. “But, until now, most of the research relevant to public health has focused on the impacts of air and water pollution,” he said.
Hydraulic fracturing technologies have unlocked oil and gas deposits from formations such as shale and tight sands that previously were not considered economically viable. But the environmental and public health effects of such operations are still emerging. To understand whether noise from hydraulic fracturing might affect the health of surrounding communities, PSE Healthy Energy researchers gathered all available data and measurements of noise levels at oil and gas operations and compared the information to established health-based standards from the World Health Organization and other groups.
They found that noise from hydraulic fracturing operations may contribute to adverse health outcomes in three categories:
- Annoyance: Sustained noise may produce a host of negative responses such as feelings of anger, anxiety, helplessness, distraction, and exhaustion and may predict future psychological distress.
- Sleep disturbance: Awakening and changes in sleep state have aftereffects that include drowsiness, cognitive impairment, and long-term chronic sleep disturbance.
- Cardiovascular health: Studies have found positive correlations between chronic noise exposure and elevated blood pressure, hypertension, and heart disease.