Study: Counties with fracking have increased rates of sexually transmitted infections; Another study shows link between B.C. extraction industries, domestic abuse

Originally posted on March 27, 2018 (reposted with additional articles July 3, 2019)

Counties with fracking have increased rates of sexually transmitted infections by Elisabeth Reitman, March 26, 2018, Yale School of Public Health

Researchers at the Yale School of Public Health have discovered that the rates of two major sexually transmitted infections (STIs), gonorrhea and chlamydia, are 21% and 19% higher, respectively, in Ohio counties with high shale gas activity (“fracking”), compared to counties without any fracking. Rates of a third STI, syphilis, were not elevated.

The findings are published in the journal PLOS One.

Shale gas extraction is associated with large influxes of specialized, trained workers into rural areas to meet the labor demands of the drilling rigs, and commonly involves the formation of “work camps” composed of relatively young men. The influx of workers in these situations is thought to increase STI risk because male workers typically live and socialize in communities with masculinized social norms, do not bring families and thus have opportunities to seek other sex partners, and may have few emotional ties to the local community.

“Beyond some of the more familiar concerns about water quality and earthquakes, this report of increased rates of two major sexually transmitted infections suggests another potential health impact in communities hosting the emerging shale gas industry,” said lead author Nicole Deziel, Ph.D., assistant professor at the Yale School of Public Health.

This report of increased rates of two major sexually transmitted infections suggests another potential health impact in communities hosting the emerging shale gas industry.”

The study examined new well permits and reported STI cases, obtained from publicly available datasets, in all 88 Ohio counties from 2000 to 2016; this long follow-up period covered both pre- and post-fracking periods to account for any pre-existing trends in STI rates. The researchers accounted for several other factors, such as population density and age, using variables obtained from the US Census.

“Similar patterns have been observed for other migratory labor movements, but the idea that this could be occurring for the current situation of increased hydraulic fracturing in the United States is only beginning to emerge,” said senior author Linda Niccolai, Ph.D., Professor at the Yale School of Public Health. “These findings point to the potential importance of new shale gas extraction activities as a social determinant of health, one that changes the collective fabric of communities in a way that increases risk for STI transmission.”

The fracking industry has rapidly expanded over the past decade, particularly in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Colorado, Texas and North Dakota. In contrast, other states, such as New York and Maryland, have banned the practice.

“The link between fracking and STIs needs to be studied in other regions before it could be considered conclusive; however, our results may be useful in informing local public health officials and policy makers, as there are effective community-level interventions for reducing transmission of STIs,” said Deziel.

“Further, this study adds to the growing body of evidence of other possible health problems in populations living near fracking sites, such as asthma symptoms or premature births.”

Other Yale School of Public Health authors on the study include Zoe Humeau, Elise Elliott, and Joshua Warren.

Fracking linked to increased rates of STIs by Chloe Reichel, June 11, 2018, Journalist’s Resource

Fracking is linked to increased rates of sexually transmitted infections in Ohio, according to research published in PLoS ONE by academics at the Yale School of Public Health. …

The practice is controversial, and often met with opposition by residents in communities with planned fracking projects. In May 2018, residents in Colorado protested a proposed project near a school in Weld County. They expressed worries about safety and the environment. Research points to a number of concerns, including contaminated groundwater, potential health risks from silicosis to congenital heart defects and a number of environmental effects, such as air pollution and surface spills. There are also broader external costs, like damage to local roads from the heavy trucks involved.

Now research points to another indirect concern. Because fracking requires the in-migration of trained laborers to operate drilling rigs, the authors write, it “commonly involves the formation of ‘work camps’ composed of relatively young male workers.” They cite previous research that has established links between other migratory labor movements and the spread of sexually transmitted infections, and produce evidence for a similar trend within this industry.

To investigate the link between fracking and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), the researchers studied data collected by the Ohio Department of Health from 2000 to 2016 on rates of three STIs: chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis. They estimated the incidence rates of these infections by year and county and compared this data with information collected about the locations and permit issue dates of shale gas wells.

Specifically, they find:

Ohio counties with high fracking activity (more than 10 wells) had 21 percent higher rates of chlamydia and 19 percent higher rates of gonorrhea compared with counties with no fracking.

There was no association between fracking and syphilis rates. The authors note that most recent cases of syphilis have occurred among men who have sex with men. “If most of the increased STI risk in communities associated with shale gas development is due to heterosexual transmission, then we would not expect to see a link with syphilis in this ecologic analysis due to the relatively small proportion of the male population that has sex with other men,” they conclude.

STI rates increased with fracking activity among both men and women in the counties studied.

Because the gas drillers are transient, the researchers point out, they might not have been tested and treated for STIs in Ohio while they worked there, and thus might not be included in the Ohio Department of Public Health data.

Regardless, they write that the findings indicate “sexual mixing patterns” between migratory workers and permanent residents and that continually increasing STI rates, even as new fracking permits declined, point to the fact that transmission continues to occur even after the workers leave — a broader public health concern.

The authors suggest that local public health efforts might target STI prevention in communities with increased fracking activity.

Study shows link between B.C. extraction industries, domestic abuse by Andrea Woo, July 24, 2014, The Globe and Mail

An increase in domestic and sexual violence against women is among the troubling social impacts of resource extraction industries, according to a B.C. victims’ services association behind a new $40,000 initiative aimed at drawing awareness to the issue.

Tracy Porteous, executive director of the Ending Violence Association of B.C. (EVA BC), pointed to recent Canadian and international research showing that factors such as a largely transient and male work force, increases in drug and other substance use and income disparity between sexes associated with such industries contribute to an increase in violence against women.

In response, EVA BC is working to produce a training video aimed at new employees involved in resource extraction, focusing on identifying the risks and responding appropriately. The B.C. government and energy producer Encana Corporation will contribute $20,000 each to fund its production.

“It’s important to be said that the vast majority of men who work in resource extraction don’t commit violence,” Ms. Porteous said. “It’s those people that we want to tap into, so they can speak to the people who are struggling.”

Clarice Eckford, project co-ordinator at Fort St. John Women’s Resource Society, found that in that northeastern B.C. boomtown, the average income for men in 2006 was $56,000 – $12,000 more than the national average – due largely to new jobs in construction, oil and gas, transportation and communication and mining. By contrast, the average income for women in Fort St. John that year was just $27,000. This income disparity results in women becoming financially dependent on their partners, Ms. Porteous said.

Ms. Eckford also found that nearly one-third of men in Fort St. John reported having “no fixed workplace address” in 2005, which was double the national average.

Meanwhile, towns with populations of less than 20,000, such as Fort St. John and Kitimat, do not meet the threshold to have provincially funded community-based victim assistance programs, Ms. Porteous said.

“These are key programs that help [victims] navigate a complex set of systems [such as] child protection, police, corrections, social assistance and social housing,” which all have different policies and procedures, she said.

Richard Dunn, vice-president of government relations Canada at Encana Corp., said the video is a result of Encana’s involvement as a founding partner in the Be More Than a Bystander campaign, an anti-violence initiative by EVA BC and the B.C. Lions football club.

“Taking this same message into our field operations aligns with our commitment to ensuring a safe, respectful workplace and is a proactive step to address this difficult issue which exists in every community,” Mr. Dunn said in a statement.

Stephanie Cadieux, B.C.’s minister of children and family development, said the training initiative will help raise awareness of the effects of domestic violence, which are not limited to the home.

Ms. Porteous said the goal is to have the video, which is currently being storyboarded and is expected to film later this summer, available at every resource-extraction work site. It will also be distributed through EVA BC’s network of 240 anti-violence programs.

In 2008, EVA BC launched a training program targeted at men in the forestry and mining sectors called Renewing Resources: Understanding the Effects of Domestic Violence on the Workplace.

Refer also to:

2019 06 20: Frac’ing is not safe, it does not improve the environment! Compendium 6 Released: Review by doctors & scientists of more than 1,700 references conclude frac industry poses threat to air, water, climate and human health

2014 06 21: Health report: some Alberta doctors refused to treat families exposed to toxic emissions by Baytex in Peace Country, one lab refused to process a test

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