July 25, 2019

Noise Pollution from Unconventional Oil and Gas Developments May Have an Effect on Public Health

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Oil well at night, lighting the outdoors.

Shale gas development, like many other heavy industries, is known to produce noise. Construction equipment, motors, engines, and traffic associated with well pad development can all create sounds that may prove to be nuisances. And while residents near wells have raised concerns regarding noise pollution from shale gas development, limited research on the subject has been conducted.

In the Journal Science of the Total Environment, researchers explored potential links between the noise generated by shale gas development and human health outcomes. The study included a research review of noise studies unrelated to shale gas development conducted in the past in order to better understand broader links between noise and health. The researchers found that in general, any undesired ambient noise is associated with annoyance, sleep disturbance, and negative cardiovascular health in humans. Annoyance from undesired sounds can lead to many psychological effects, including anger, anxiety, and distraction. Sleep disturbances include changes in sleep stage length, sleepiness, and restfulness. Cardiovascular impacts can include high blood pressure, fast heart rate, and the release of stress hormones.

With respect to shale gas in particular, the researchers found that the levels of noise resulting from the unconventional oil and gas developments are capable of causing annoyance and sleep disturbance. However, in terms of cardiovascular health, most of the temporary construction and preparation noises would not likely have an impact. Additionally, the researchers suggested that in conjunction with other stressors from unconventional oil and gas developments, the impact on the aforementioned health outcomes may be magnified.

The researchers acknowledged that the study’s data was limited and that the team used estimations from other studies. Thus, additional research in this area is needed. In the meantime, residents can work with the industry and their local governments to address nuisance issues associated with ambient noise.

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