Health Impacts of Unconventional Oil and Gas Development


This report reviews the academic literature analyzing the effect of unconventional oil and gas development on health outcomes, focusing on epidemiological studies.

Key Findings

  • We review 32 studies that cover health impacts such as birth outcomes, cancers, asthma, and other health effects, including migraines and hospitalization.
  • We find that though many epidemiological studies used robust statistical methods to estimate changes in health outcomes associated with unconventional oil and gas development, all had weaknesses and many had significant shortcomings.
  • Due to the nature of the data and research methodologies, the studies are unable to assess the mechanisms of any health impacts (i.e., whether a certain impact is caused by air pollution, stress, water pollution, or another burden).
  • Even where good evidence is offered for a link between unconventional oil and gas development and health, the causal factor(s) driving this association are unclear.
  • Though we do not see strong evidence of impacts in the literature, a lack of data or rigorous analysis does not rule out the potential for any effects.