Project at a Glance

Title: Characterizing the Potential Health and Equity Impacts of Oil and Gas Extraction and Production Activities in California

Principal Investigator / Author(s): Morello-Frosch, Rachel

Contractor: UC Berkeley

Contract Number: 18RD018

Research Program Area: Health & Exposure

Topic Areas: Health Effects of Air Pollution


There is a need for studies in California to assess the impacts of exposure to oil and gas development (OGD) on health outcomes as well as potential threats to drinking water sources, particularly among communities reliant upon domestic wells. Also, high methane emitting facilities, which include OGD activities as well as landfills, dairies, and refineries, can emit non-methane co-pollutants that are harmful to human health but have been understudied both in terms of their implications for environmental justice and for their potential to produce acute or chronic health effects. Previous research has found a link between OGD and adverse birth outcomes in other areas of the US. To provide information in these areas the investigators in this contract examined the relationship between perinatal health outcomes and OGD and found associations between adverse birth outcomes and exposure to active and inactive wells and hydraulic fracturing (HF) during pregnancy in California. They also conducted a spatial analysis of OGD infrastructure sites and domestic wells areas (DWA-- populated areas served by at least one domestic well) and community water systems (CWS-- public drinking water systems with at least connections) to identify potential groundwater threats in the San Joaquin Valley and found that these systems particularly serve Latino populations. Finally, the investigators examined the relationship between the proximity to high methane emitting facilities and migraine prevalence and exacerbation and conducted an equity assessment of community proximity and exposure concentration for California's high methane emitting facilities. The results of these studies showed that high methane emitting facilities are located more in comminutes of color and that migraine cases are associated with their emissions. These analyses indicate the importance of characterizing the potential human health and equity implications of oil and gas development as well as high methane emitting facilities to ensure that regulatory decision-making for these facilities integrates public and environmental health, and environmental justice goals.

For questions regarding this research project, including available data and progress status, contact: Research Division staff at (916) 445-0753

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