Exacerbation of Pediatric Asthma Due to Ultrafine Particle Exposure from Marcellus Shale Gas Drilling Operations

Abstract

Ultrafine particles are a result of combustion processes found in diesel engines also used in Marcellus Shale drilling. Ultrafine particles are of increasing concern because they exacerbate asthma symptoms. Children are more susceptible to asthma and rates of asthma are increasing among them. To determine if ultrafine particles produced during Marcellus Shale drilling exacerbate asthma symptoms in children, a cohort study will be conducted in Ohio County, West Virginia, using a differential mobility analyzer to measure the concentration of ultrafine particles. The rate of asthma will be matched with the concentration of ultrafine particles to the distance from the Marcellus Shale wells.

Keywords: Asthma, Air Pollution, Ambient Air, Marcellus Shale drilling Operations, Ultrafine Particles, Health effects.

Exacerbation of Pediatric Asthma Due to Ultrafine Particle Exposure

from Marcellus Shale Gas Drilling Operations

Particulate matter exists in different sizes in ambient air.  Particles can range from coarse (2.5 micrometers) to ultrafine (less than 100 nanometers). The air that we breathe is full of microscopic particles that we cannot see, such as ultrafine particles. High concentrations of ultrafine particles are found as a component of air pollution in industrious areas, areas with high traffic emissions, aerosols, combustion processes, and diesel exhaust fumes (Li et al 2003). Research has shown that because these particles are very small in diameter, they can exist in the environment for longer periods of times.  Furthermore, there are no regulations for ultrafine particles due to their size, and they are believed to have more dangerous health implications in comparison to larger particulates (Howard, 2009).

Ultrafine particles are so small that they are able to pass through nasal passages in high amounts and settle in the lungs through the process of diffusion (Anderson et al 1990, Donaldson et al 2001).  The lung surface of children are larger than that of adults, which enables them to breathe in twice as much air per kg of their body weight than adults. Also, children tend to spend more time outdoors than adults which increases their susceptibility to air pollution (Schwartz, 2004). Epidemiological studies have found a positive association between ultrafine particles and several health effects in humans.

In West Virginia (WV), there are multiple causes for the introduction of ultrafine particles into the air.  WV typically generates 96 percent of its electricity through coal-fired power plants (EIA 2012). These power plants in turn generate high levels of ultrafine particle concentrations from diesel exhaust fumes, machines, and combustion processes.  WV also utilizes hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracking or fracking), which is the injection of water, sand, and chemicals at high pressure into shale formations, in order to extract natural gas trapped underground.  Marcellus shale is a layer of black rock, located in WV and surrounding states, that lies several thousand feet below the surface and is the current target of fracking by energy companies (Kargbo, et al 2002). The combustion process that occurs in the diesel engines used for Marcellus Shale drilling produce high concentrations of ultrafine particles. Currently, the Environmental Protection Agency does not monitor ultrafine particle concentrations in WV, therefore the health of people living around these fracking wells are at risk.

Literature Review

 

Studies suggest that exposure to petrochemical pollution has negative effects on the respiratory health of children.  In Wichmann’s study, children from ages 6 to 12 were divided into three subgroups: (1) children who lived near petrochemical plants; (2) children who lived in residential areas with minimal air pollution; (3) children who live in very busy urban areas. Surveys were provided to residents to answer questions concerning background health information. Lung function was measured in the different age groups of children to standardize the results. The research sought to determine if there was a difference in morbidity levels across the different subgroups of children. The experiments confirm that children that resided near the petrochemical plants and children that lived in urban or industrial areas had higher occurrences of asthma (Wichmann et al 2009). The research shows a positive correlation that supports Wichmann et al’s claim that lung function declined in children who live near petrochemical plants and industrial areas. Wichmann’s study is important because it shows a link between industrialized areas, pollution, particles and asthma.

Previous research also suggest that ultrafine particles are associated with increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, which arise due to high levels of toxicity of the particles (WHO, 2007). Donaldson et al (2001) addressed the health effects of ultrafine particles on humans. This research showed that certain groups of people are more susceptible to the toxic effects of ultrafine particles. Patients who already suffer from a previous respiratory disease were shown to be most sensitive to particle exposure. A limitation of the research (Donaldson et al 2001) is that it does not have actual human data to support its claim on particle exposure because the experiments were conducted on rats. Donaldson’s research briefly discusses the ease of deposition of the particles on a lung, but notes that only few advances have come from actual human studies on ultra-fine particles. This provides support for the basis of my research by showing there is an actual correlation between the size of the nanoparticles and health risks that could possibly occur.

Klot et al (2009) conducted experiments in Germany to evaluate the association between air pollution and increased asthma medication use. The sources of pollution in the city mainly originated from the existing vehicle traffic and power plant.  Extensive background information was gathered on the individuals before the study to determine if the individual had asthma or asthma like symptoms. The participants are then exposed to outdoor ambient pollution and gaseous pollutants (NO2, SO2). Time spent during and after the exposure is recorded and symptoms are analyzed in the participants. In this research paper, the role that ultra-fine particles play in pediatric asthma from exposure to drilling operations will be investigated.

Problem Statement

Children in northern West Virginia are already exposed to high levels of ultrafine particle concentration emitted from coal power plants. Gas drilling operations in West Virginia along the Marcellus Shale require a lot of equipment that release ultrafine particles through diesel exhaust fumes. Previous studies have shown that families who lived near areas with such high traffic in Buffalo, New York, were exposed to higher levels of pollution (Lwebuga-Mukasa et al 2005). This leaves the children who live in close vicinity to these drilling operations susceptible to respiratory diseases such as asthma.

The indirect and direct cost of asthma includes outpatient services, inpatient stays, emergency room visits, medication costs, and use of ambulance services. These services alone cost the United States an estimated $5.1 billion annually (Smith et al, 1997). Researchers have perceived ultrafine particle research as an area which needs further study. There has been limited study in ultrafine particle research that links exacerbation of asthma in children to ultrafine particle emission in WV.

Purpose Statement

The purpose of this study is to determine the possible adverse health effects that Marcellus Shale drilling may cause among children in areas where drilling wells are located.  The sampling of drilling areas for concentration levels of ultrafine particles will provide a control for comparison to areas further from the drilling wells. Both measurements provide a better understanding of the severity of ultrafine particle exposure through distance and relativity. In addition, a survey will be administered to the sample population in order to quantitatively measure how each family differs in frequency of asthma-related symptoms after samples are taken.  Although children are the main focus of the study, the overall family health will give insight to how each family manages asthma or asthma related symptoms.  Statistical analysis will be used to analyze the results of the concentration levels to show if the ultrafine particles that originate from the gas drilling operations are statistically significant indoors, and exacerbate asthma related symptoms. Through results obtained statistically, a conclusion will be made whether our findings are generalizable to a larger population.

Research Questions

  1. Is there an increase in asthma symptoms for children who live in close proximity to the Marcellus Shale gas drilling wells?
  2. Does the presence of Marcellus Shale gas drilling operations in Ohio County, West Virginia exacerbate pediatric asthma?
  3. Has the presence of Marcellus Shale drilling operations increased asthma related hospital visits?

Hypotheses

  • Concentrations of ultrafine particles will increase the closer the families live to the gas wells.
  • As concentrations of ultrafine particles increase, the rates of asthma in children will increase as well.
  • As concentrations of ultrafine particles increase, exacerbation of asthma symptoms in children will increase as well.

Methodology

Overview

This particular research was being conducted with the aim of interrogating the relationship between the distance from the Marcellus shale gas drill wells to the exacerbaration of asthma among children. The methodology and the choice of the variables have been chosen based on previous research that indicated that there is a strong correlation between the concentration of ultrafine particles in the atmosphere where the participants lived and the exacerbation of asthma and other respiratory diseases. In order to answer the research question on whether the presence of the Marcellus shale gas drill wells affected the health of the residence the levels of concretion of ultrafine particles would be measured and comparisons made to the distance from the drilling wells. A strong correlation would indicated that the Marcellus shall gas drill wells are responsible for increase in the concentration of the ultrafine particles and hence the deterioration of health among the residents. The data was gathered first hand as there was difficulty obtaining health data from the government department responsible. Some secondary sources used include previous research that gave pointers on how to undertake the methodology and supporting articles that further increased the understanding of the entire process.

The process involved actual survey and measurement of atmospheric particulate concentration in different locations within the study area of West Virginia. The data gathered in by the research instruments is then computed for analysis and interpretation. This is further compared with previous studies for review and further evaluation.

Research Design

Both the quantitative and descriptive methods of research would be used in this particular study. The descriptive type of research is one that the researcher gathers information regarding a particular existing condition with the aim of explaining phenomena rather than interpreting or evaluating. In the descriptive part of the research, this thesis shall attempt to verify a particular hypothesis that have been presented from previous research and further elucidate on a particular issue. A bigger percentage of this particular methodology shall involve a descriptive approach rather than a quantitative statistical analysis. This method was adapted due to its flexibility in investigation and allows for further investigation and discovery of new opportunities that might have not been very obvious.

Descriptive research approach is concerned with explaining natural phenomena or condition and the degree of impact in a particular situation. This method has been used to study different areas by scholars and scientists for a long period of time. The aim of this descriptive research is to further examine the extent to which ultrafine particles in the atmosphere relate with the distance from the established shale gas drilling well and hence put the correlation with the prevalence of asthma among the children in the locations.

The research also took a qualitative and quantitative approach to establish the finer details of the already established hypothesis. This basically involved statistical analysis using SPSS software to find the comparison between location and the average concentration in the ultrafine particles in the atmosphere of the chosen study location. This required the determination of the most appropriate sample since the geographical area being examined was quite expansive. For ease of operation only a handful of locations were picked due to their accessibility and the equipment. The readings were then taken and tabulated before being further refined for presentation purposes.

Overview

This particular research was being conducted with the aim of interrogating the relationship between the distances from the Marcellus shale gas drill wells to the exacerbation of asthma among children. The methodology and the choice of the variables have been chosen based on previous research that indicated that there is a strong correlation between the concentration of ultrafine particles in the atmosphere where the participants lived and the exacerbation of asthma and other respiratory diseases. In order to answer the research question on whether the presence of the Marcellus shale gas drill wells affected the health of the residence the levels of concretion of ultrafine particles would be measured and comparisons made to the distance from the drilling wells. A strong correlation would indicated that the Marcellus shall gas drill wells are responsible for increase in the concentration of the ultrafine particles and hence the deterioration of health among the residents. The data was gathered first hand as there was difficulty obtaining health data from the government department responsible. Some secondary sources used include previous research that gave pointers on how to undertake the methodology and supporting articles that further increased the understanding of the entire process.

The process involved actual survey and measurement of atmospheric particulate concentration in different locations within the study area of West Virginia. The data gathered in by the research instruments is then computed for analysis and interpretation. This is further compared with previous studies for review and further evaluation.

Research Design

Both the quantitative and descriptive methods of research would be used in this particular study. The descriptive type of research is one that the researcher gathers information regarding a particular existing condition with the aim of explaining phenomena rather than interpreting or evaluating. In the descriptive part of the research, this thesis shall attempt to verify a particular hypothesis that have been presented from previous research and further elucidate on a particular issue. A bigger percentage of this particular methodology shall involve a descriptive approach rather than a quantitative statistical analysis. This method was adapted due to its flexibility in investigation and allows for further investigation and discovery of new opportunities that might have not been very obvious.

Descriptive research approach is concerned with explaining natural phenomena or condition and the degree of impact in a particular situation. This method has been used to study different areas by scholars and scientists for a long period of time. The aim of this descriptive research is to further examine the extent to which ultrafine particles in the atmosphere relate with the distance from the established shale gas drilling well and hence put the correlation with the prevalence of asthma among the children in the locations.

The research also took a qualitative and quantitative approach to establish the finer details of the already established hypothesis. This basically involved statistical analysis using SPSS software to find the comparison between location and the average concentration in the ultrafine particles in the atmosphere of the chosen study location. This required the determination of the most appropriate sample since the geographical area being examined was quite expansive. For ease of operation only a handful of locations were picked due to there accessibility and the equipment. The readings were then taken and tabulated before being further refined for presentation purposes.

The qualitative approach is mainly concerned with ensuring that the research produces valid and credible results. This can be done through proper methodology and correct sampling method being used. Since the area to be studied is quite expansive, proper location identification need to be done and this is done using knowledge and information on actual health records that can be accessed by the researcher.  The approach also looks at the sample size and its relation to the general population ie regions with higher populations needs to be the focus of this study as it affects human public health.  The quality of the data collected is also qualified using proper methodology by ensuring that means and averages are used to come up the standard results that would be used in the analysis. The multistage sampling method that was used in the data collection methodology also ensured the quality of the results being obtained.

The combination of this methods resulted in the data collected below and subsequent analysis that came up with conclusions and recommendation for further study.

Ethical Considerations

This particular research involved comparing actual information regarding the health of young people and therefore all effort should be made to ensure that there is consent to use the information. This will be done by ensuring all the participant understand the purpose of the research and give a written consent on it through a pre written consent form.  Also, the researcher shall ensure that he does not disclose any information that is private that was given to him in confidentiality for the purposes of research only.

Study Population

This study was conducted in Ohio County, West Virginia, on homes proximate to Marcellus Shale gas-drilling sites using multi-stage probability sampling.  Participants were selected based on the proximity of their homes to a Marcellus Shale gas drilling well. Further selection of participants was also selected based on whether a child within a selected age range is present in the household.  The study design involved the use of a differential mobility analyzer to measure concentrations of ultrafine particles indoors and outdoors.  Indoor concentration samples in households with children serve as a control for concentrations of ultra-fine particles found outdoors.

Surveys will also be administered to identify any re-occurring asthma related symptoms. The survey will consist of questions pertaining to the overall health of the household members. Questions pertaining to frequency of symptoms and hospital visits will be asked using a likert scale. The survey will be compared to existing asthma data retrieved from a local epidemiologist.  Statistical analysis was conducted to test if proximity to the gas drilling operations is associated with the increase of asthma in children. The design of this research was intended to compare concentrations of ultra-fine particles indoors versus outdoors in order to understand where higher levels are usually found.

 

Independent Variable

 

In measuring the concentrations of ultrafine particles in the community, an important factor is the proximity of the houses that will be sampled to the Marcellus Shale gas drilling wells. By choosing different distances of the houses to the gas wells, I hypothesize that the concentrations of ultra-fine particles will increase, as the proximity gets closer to the wells.

Dependent Variable

The concentration of ultrafine particles in the indoor and outdoor environment will depend on the source of emission. The concentration is very important because it will correlate the source of emission of the particles with exacerbation of asthma symptoms in children.

 

 

 

Data Analysis

Data analysis

In this particular chapter the results of the data is presented. The data was collected as earlier explained and then processed in order to address the problem statement that was posed for research. two fundamental goals were the driving factors in the collection and subsequent data analysis. These particular goals have enabled the development of a base on knowledge about the impact of ultrafine particles from gas drilling wells.  And construct a model to prove the correlation between the distance from the well and the existence of ultrafine particulate matter that cause increase in respiratory disorders such as asthma as highlighted by different other studies. The paragraphs below would present the findings and demonstrate how the theory and practice of the hypothesis formulated eventually merge.

Response Rate

                The research was twofold, the first part was to evaluate the prevalence of asthma among the population and the second part of the research in which more emphasis was put was to look at the quality of the atmospheric air as compared to its distance from the gas drilling wells. This is critical as the ultrafine particle showed the prevalence of asthma among the children in that particular area.  First the concentration levels were to be compared with the levels of prevalence of pediatric asthma to ascertain the correlation between ultrafine particle concentrations. This was to be done later as part of research methodology validation process. It would involve the use of person survey and medical history analysis of the various members in different parts of the community.

 

 

 

 

Location

  Frequency Percent Valid Percent Cumulative Percent
Valid   1 .2 .2 .2
 Melvin Kahle 20 5.0 5.0 5.2
Brian Dykto 1 .2 .2 5.5
Chad Glauser 124 30.8 30.8 36.3
Chesapeake energy 59 14.7 14.7 51.0
Freshwater Impoundment 13 3.2 3.2 54.2
Laidley Run Road 43 10.7 10.7 64.9
Manson Cottrell 8H 50 12.4 12.4 77.4
National Road 91 22.6 22.6 100.0
Total 402 100.0 100.0  

 

The samples were taken from some eight different locations each having varying distances from the drilling and these samples were then tested for concentration in terms of ultrafine particles. There were 402 samples in total and majority were from Chad Clauser which the researcher felt a need to have more samples due to the location and the potential impact on the validity of the analysis.

 

Summary Statistics

Location   Total Conc   Median (nm)   Mean (nm)   Geo Mean (nm)   Mode (nm)   GSD  
Mean 3.700748 Mean 11351.56 Mean 21.26567 Mean 30.93057 Mean 23.89008 Mean 15.1208 Mean 1.922251
Standard Error 0.103556 Standard Error 444.7027 Standard Error 0.110777 Standard Error 0.165591 Standard Error 0.106221 Standard Error 0.068593 Standard Error 0.008155
Median 3 Median 13459.38 Median 21.1378 Median 31.4318 Median 23.8717 Median 15.3993 Median 1.9391
Mode 3 Mode 0 Mode 21.1349 Mode 0 Mode 23.0152 Mode 15.3993 Mode 1.9431
Standard Deviation 2.073698 Standard Deviation 8905.164 Standard Deviation 2.218301 Standard Deviation 3.315955 Standard Deviation 2.127079 Standard Deviation 1.37358 Standard Deviation 0.163308
Sample Variance 4.300224 Sample Variance 79301945 Sample Variance 4.920858 Sample Variance 10.99556 Sample Variance 4.524463 Sample Variance 1.886722 Sample Variance 0.02667
Kurtosis -0.7764 Kurtosis 107.4211 Kurtosis 40.89217 Kurtosis 36.59991 Kurtosis 78.6079 Kurtosis 73.95522 Kurtosis 94.70337
Skewness 0.657893 Skewness 7.392091 Skewness -4.42245 Skewness -3.89112 Skewness -7.0871 Skewness -7.6243 Skewness -8.07498
Range 7 Range 139694.9 Range 26.0085 Range 41.0477 Range 28.091 Range 15.3993 Range 2.2654
Minimum 1 Minimum 0 Minimum 0 Minimum 0 Minimum 0 Minimum 0 Minimum 0
Maximum 8 Maximum 139694.9 Maximum 26.0085 Maximum 41.0477 Maximum 28.091 Maximum 15.3993 Maximum 2.2654
Sum 1484 Sum 4551976 Sum 8527.532 Sum 12403.16 Sum 9579.922 Sum 6063.439 Sum 770.8225
Count 401 Count 401 Count 401 Count 401 Count 401 Count 401 Count 401
Largest(1) 8 Largest(1) 139694.9 Largest(1) 26.0085 Largest(1) 41.0477 Largest(1) 28.091 Largest(1) 15.3993 Largest(1) 2.2654
Confidence Level(95.0%) 0.203581 Confidence Level(95.0%) 874.2464 Confidence Level(95.0%) 0.217777 Confidence Level(95.0%) 0.325537 Confidence Level(95.0%) 0.208822 Confidence Level(95.0%) 0.134848 Confidence Level(95.0%) 0.016032

 

 

 

Correlations
Control Variables Total Conc Median (nm) Location
-none-a Total Conc Correlation 1.000 -.085 .
Significance (1-tailed) . .045 .
df 0 399 0
Median (nm) Correlation -.085 1.000 .
Significance (1-tailed) .045 . .
df 399 0 0
Location Correlation . . 1.000
Significance (1-tailed) . . .
df 0 0 0
Location Total Conc Correlation 1.000 .  
Significance (1-tailed) . .  
df 0 0  
Median (nm) Correlation . 1.000  
Significance (1-tailed) . .  
df 0 0  
a. Cells contain zero-order (Pearson) correlations.

 

 

Table of correlation between the various element obtained from the data collected in the research area.

  Location Total Conc Median (nm) Mean (nm) Geo Mean (nm) Mode (nm) GSD
Location 1
Total Conc 0.461335 1
Median (nm) 0.354543 -0.08457 1
Mean (nm) 0.309329 -0.13391 0.741546 1
Geo Mean (nm) 0.307241 -0.11482 0.914026 0.932045 1
Mode (nm) 0.058546 0.076482 0.548032 0.455737 0.615887 1
GSD 0.179701 -0.03089 0.65718 0.940704 0.89626 0.58712 1

 

The table above gives the correlation dat and it can be noted that location and concentration have the highest correlation as compared to other variable. This further proves our hypothesis that distance is a major factor to the presence of ultrafine particle matter in the atmospheres. The assumption made is that there is no general wind direction and that the locations are evenly spread to represent the general population of the wider county.

SUMMARY OUTPUT
Regression Statistics
Multiple R 0.461499
R Square 0.212981
Adjusted R Square 0.211004
Standard Error 1.840355
Observations 400
ANOVA
  df SS MS F Significance F
Regression 1 364.7891 364.7891 107.7057 1.72E-22
Residual 398 1347.988 3.386905
Total 399 1712.778      
  Coefficients Standard Error t Stat P-value Lower 95% Upper 95% Lower 95.0% Upper 95.0%
Intercept 2.489448 0.149139 16.69218 8.51E-48 2.19625 2.782645 2.19625 2.782645
9011.281 0.000107 1.03E-05 10.37814 1.72E-22 8.69E-05 0.000128 8.69E-05 0.000128

 

 

 

The results above represent the regression analysis of the location against total concentration. The normal probability plot shows that there is an almost linear line which shows that the data collected is reliable and accurate.

  Location Total Conc
Location 1
Total Conc 0.461335 1

The above table shows the correlation between location and the total concentration. It can be noted that there is a positive strong correlation. The value shows that the two variable are related and hence location does affect the quality of atmospheric air.

Results and Discussion

            The results obtained were aimed at solving proving the hypothesis of whether there is a correlation between ultrafine particles in the atmosphere and the distance from the shale gas drilling wells. This can be done through a simple regression model plotting the graph of distance from the shale gas drilling well against the total concentration of the ultrafine particles that were obtained. From the initial survey it is noted that as the distance increases from the various drilling wells there is lesser concentration of ultrafine particles detected by the machines and the vice versa is true. Therefore based on this primary fact it can be assumed that the presence of the shale gas drilling wells caused an increase in level and exacerbation of pediatric asthma among the population, the basic assumption is that the ultrafine particles are the only cause of exacerbation of asthma among the children in the area.

There were some 402 samples that were collected from different locations and this was then tabulated using an excel spreadsheet.  Later on analysis was done to compare the convention and the location of the drill wells. It was not easy to get the individual distances from the wells and therefore estimation was done of the various location and just clustered into seven different regions. In the analysis a simple regression model was done to fine the best curve that could be plotted and this became the model that explained the phenomena.

A line of best fit was able to be drawn using covariance and correlation estimations calculated. It could also be noted that the relationship between the two major variables had a linear. The hypothesis could be written as follows.

Concentration of ultrafine particles (y) α (a)* distance from the drilling wells

Where a is a constant to be determined by experimentations with much wider population to come up with an accurate measure. The shalle drilling gas technology is largely similar in most other areas and hence their contribution to pollution in terms of putting ultrafine particulate matter to the atmosphere cannot be ignored. Other factors that were not considered in this study was the weather patterns and their contributions to how ultrafine particulate matter is dispersed over wide area; elements such as the direction of the wind, conditions of the humidity of a coastal location.

Limitations

As with all studies there are challenges and limitations that had to be encountered. Some of the limitation has been highlighted in previous studies and there is little that could be done to avert them and all that could be done was to minimize their impact on the overall study so as to ensure that the findings and analysis provide an accurate presentation. One of the major limitations was the focus on ultrafine particles as the major cause of exacerbation of pediatric asthma. Focusing on a single element in the environment could be misleading since there are many other elements that could be involved and potentially cause an exacerbation of the disease and other respiratory conditions. Other factors are completely ignored like the presence of other pollutants that are not necessary ultrafine particulate emitting.

The second challenge is the fact that human beings in the 21st century are mobile and therefore there are high chances of movement of families. This therefore means that a disease could have been aggravated at a location not related to the location that a child is currently living in. this further compounds the problem as a huge number of the individuals living around the shale gas drilling wells are family members of individuals either associated or working in the gas industry. These people are sometimes not very consistent and move from one location to the other as there is a shortage of expertise.

The last limitation that could have that there was no accurate instrumentation that could be used to map out the distances from the shale gas drilling wells. It is recommended that further study use more accurate GPS location devices that would give distances that would make a better estimation of locations and hence produce results that are of higher quality.

Conclusion

            The study showed that there was a strong correlation between distance and concentration of ultrafine particles.  And since the premise of this study showed that there is scientific evidence to show that presence of ultrafine particles in the atmosphere exacerbated the prevalence of respiratory diseases such as pediatric asthma then the presence of ultrafine particles was assumed as an indicator of the level of prevalence of the diseases. The regression model and bi-variate analysis using SPSS and Excel spreadsheet gave a similar outcome that there two were positively correlation and hence more measures should be taken to ensure that appropriate mechanisms are put in place to ensure such drilling operations are closely monitored to prevent them from adversely affecting the health of the population around.      

The conclusion of this study cannot be made due to the many challenges but the results from the analysis are indicative and further study need to be done to ascertain that the hypothesis can be supported by scientific means. To achieve this more stringent data collection and tabulation method needs to be carried out. The new variable should include distance and direction from the oil or gas wells. Also important in the study is the composition of the ultrafine particles that could also give an insight into the contribution of such compositions towards the exacerbation of asthma and potentially other respiratory diseases.

To compare variables in this study, the data retrieved from the differential mobility analyzer was converted into an excel sheet and analyzed using a software package named SPSS for statistical analysis.

 

Results / Discussion

Data from the spreadsheet revealed that we were able to record ultrafine particles concentrations as high as 46,000 particles per cm3 in drilling areas where we sampled. These concentrations are generally found to be higher than the concentration associated with increased emergency room admissions for asthma and the same range as areas where pediatric asthma rates were significantly increased (8,000 particles per cm3). Previous research on mountain top mining showed elevated risks of lung disease mortality in areas with concentrations as low as 10,000 particles per cm3 due to high amount of particles depositing in the lungs. These concentrations are consistent with ambient air particle counts that were obtained near mountain top mining operations, which have significantly increased levels of respiratory mortality in the population. It is expected that with such high levels of particles present from Marcellus Shale drilling operations, asthma rates in children and adults are expected to increase over time from monitoring emergency room admissions data. The limitations in this research is that there are pockets of elevated ultrafine particle concentrations in areas outside the Marcellus drilling regions in the state, although the statistically- significant concentrations were found in proximity to active drilling sites. Another limitation of this study would be the lack of willingness of people to participate and give information on their children’s health to assist with the studies. Due to lack of information on ultrafine particles and its research it has been difficult getting compliance to enter the drilling sites instead all samples had to be taken about half a mile in radius away from the active sites.

 

 

References

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