Environmental and individual PAH exposures near rural natural gas extraction

L. Blair Paulik, Kevin A. Hobbie, Diana Rohlman, Brian W. Smith, Richard P. Scott, Laurel Kincl, Erin N. Haynes, Kim A. Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Natural gas extraction (NGE) has expanded rapidly in the United States in recent years. Despite concerns, there is little information about the effects of NGE on air quality or personal exposures of people living or working nearby. Recent research suggests NGE emits polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) into air. This study used low-density polyethylene passive samplers to measure concentrations of PAHs in air near active (n = 3) and proposed (n = 2) NGE sites. At each site, two concentric rings of air samplers were placed around the active or proposed well pad location. Silicone wristbands were used to assess personal PAH exposures of participants (n = 19) living or working near the sampling sites. All samples were analyzed for 62 PAHs using GC-MS/MS, and point sources were estimated using the fluoranthene/pyrene isomer ratio. ∑PAH was significantly higher in air at active NGE sites (Wilcoxon rank sum test, p < 0.01). PAHs in air were also more petrogenic (petroleum-derived) at active NGE sites. This suggests that PAH mixtures at active NGE sites may have been affected by direct emissions from petroleum sources at these sites. ∑PAH was also significantly higher in wristbands from participants who had active NGE wells on their properties than from participants who did not (Wilcoxon rank sum test, p < 0.005). There was a significant positive correlation between ∑PAH in participants’ wristbands and ∑PAH in air measured closest to participants’ homes or workplaces (simple linear regression, p < 0.0001). These findings suggest that living or working near an active NGE well may increase personal PAH exposure. This work also supports the utility of the silicone wristband to assess personal PAH exposure. Living or working near natural gas extraction activity may increase your PAH exposure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)397-405
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
StatePublished - Oct 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded by NIEHS grants to OSU: P30-ES000210 and to UC: P30-ES06096 . We thank Glenn Wilson, Jorge Padilla, and Gary Points of the OSU Food Safety and Environmental Stewardship Program for help with analysis. Thank you to Carey Donald, Jamie Minick, Alan Bergmann, and Holly Dixon for help with data interpretation and analysis. Thank you to Sarah Elam of the UC Environmental Health Sciences Center Community Outreach and Engagement Core, Jody Alden and Delores Silverthorn of UC, and Paul Feezel of Carroll Concerned Citizens, all for assistance with participant recruitment, training, and communication. Thank you to Heidi Sucharew of Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center for help with statistical analyses, and to Sean Carver for illustrating the graphical abstract. Finally, thank you to the participants in Ohio for making this study possible.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 The Authors


  • Air pollution
  • Fracking
  • Monitoring
  • Organic contaminant

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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