Assessing Unconventional Oil and Gas Exposure in the Appalachian Basin: Comparison of Exposure Surrogates and Residential Drinking Water Measurements

Cassandra J. Clark, Boya Xiong, Mario A. Soriano, Kristina Gutchess, Helen G. Siegel, Emma C. Ryan, Nicholaus P. Johnson, Kelsie Cassell, Elise G. Elliott, Yunpo Li, Austin J. Cox, Nicolette Bugher, Lukas Glist, Rebecca J. Brenneis, Keli M. Sorrentino, Julie Plano, Xiaomei Ma, Joshua L. Warren, Desiree L. Plata, James E. SaiersNicole C. Deziel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Health studies report associations between metrics of residential proximity to unconventional oil and gas (UOG) development and adverse health endpoints. We investigated whether exposure through household groundwater is captured by existing metrics and a newly developed metric incorporating groundwater flow paths. We compared metrics with detection frequencies/concentrations of 64 organic and inorganic UOG-related chemicals/groups in residential groundwater from 255 homes (Pennsylvania n = 94 and Ohio n = 161). Twenty-seven chemicals were detected in ≥20% of water samples at concentrations generally below U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards. In Pennsylvania, two organic chemicals/groups had reduced odds of detection with increasing distance to the nearest well: 1,2-dichloroethene and benzene (Odds Ratio [OR]: 0.46, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.23–0.93) and m- and p-xylene (OR: 0.28, 95% CI: 0.10–0.80); results were consistent across metrics. In Ohio, the odds of detecting toluene increased with increasing distance to the nearest well (OR: 1.48, 95% CI: 1.12–1.95), also consistent across metrics. Correlations between inorganic chemicals and metrics were limited (all |ρ| ≤ 0.28). Limited associations between metrics and chemicals may indicate that UOG-related water contamination occurs rarely/episodically, more complex metrics may be needed to capture drinking water exposure, and/or spatial metrics in health studies may better reflect exposure to other stressors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1091-1103
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 18 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. Published by American Chemical Society


  • drinking water
  • exposure assessment
  • fracking
  • spatial metrics
  • spatial surrogates
  • unconventional oil and gas development

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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