Hydraulic Fracturing and Hematopoietic Neoplasms in the Pediatric Population of Pennsylvania, 2003-2017

ABSTRACT

Introduction: The incidence of pediatric leukemia and lymphoma has been steadily rising over time. Known risk factors for these diseases are limited, but previous research suggests that environmental exposures may play a role in the development of cancer. One source of environmental exposures is hydraulic fracturing. Hydraulic fracturing is a widely used process for the extraction of natural gas and oil in the United States. Multiple chemicals, including known carcinogens, are mixed with water, and small particles are injected under high pressure into targeted natural gas and oil reserves thousands of feet below the land surface. The established health impacts of hydraulic fracturing are limited, but in infants, an increased risk of preterm births, birth defects, and early infant mortality has been noted. Research focused in the pediatric population is sparse, but early evidence indicates there may be an association between the chemicals from hydraulic fracturing and leukemia and lymphoma. The aim of this research is to examine the association between the number of hydraulic fracturing wells and the number of leukemia and lymphoma diagnoses in children ages 0-19 in Pennsylvania from 2003-2017.

Methods: Cancer incidence data were obtained from the Pennsylvania Enterprise Data Dissemination Exchange, and hydraulic fracturing data were obtained from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Nonlinear mixed-effects models were constructed to analyze the number of cases of pediatric leukemia and lymphoma diagnosed per county per year via a Zero-Inflated Poisson regression. Analyses were adjusted for the percentage of children living in poverty. An intensity ratio and its 95% confidence interval for a 10-unit change in the number of wells were constructed. A confidence interval for an intensity ratio that does not contain 1.0 was considered statistically significant.

Results: Between 2003 and 2017, a total of 1,967 cases of leukemia and 1,216 cases of lymphoma were diagnosed in children ages 0-19 in Pennsylvania. Between 1983 and 2017, a total of 10,915 unconventional wells were drilled across Pennsylvania. Statistical analyses did not reveal any significant associations between the number of wells drilled and rates of pediatric leukemia. For lymphoma, a 10-unit increase in the number unconventional wells drilled three years prior to diagnosis was associated with a 1.0315-fold increased rate of lymphoma diagnosed per population (95% CI 1.0077, 1.0560, p = 0.01011). A 10-unit increase in the number of unconventional wells drilled ten years prior to diagnosis was associated with a 1.494-fold increased rate of lymphoma diagnosed per population (95% CI 1.1326, 1.9707, p = 0.00515).

Conclusion: Hydraulic fracturing activities may impact the rate of diagnosis of pediatric lymphoma in Pennsylvania. However, this research was subject to multiple limitations, including small sample sizes and an inability to control for additional cancer risk factors. Due to the physical, emotional, and economic severity of a diagnosis of pediatric cancer, additional research substantiating the findings of this research is warranted.

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Work Title Hydraulic Fracturing and Hematopoietic Neoplasms in the Pediatric Population of Pennsylvania, 2003-2017
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Penn State
Creators
  1. Katie Sneeringer
Keyword
  1. hydraulic fracturing
  2. pediatric leukemia
  3. pediatric lymphoma
License In Copyright (Rights Reserved)
Work Type Dissertation
Publication Date 2021
Language
  1. English
Geographic Area
  1. Pennsylvania
Deposited August 17, 2021

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