Environmental and individual PAH exposures near rural natural gas extraction

Environ Pollut. 2018 Oct:241:397-405. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2018.05.010. Epub 2018 May 29.


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.

Keywords: Air pollution; Fracking; Monitoring; Organic contaminant.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / analysis*
  • Air Pollution / statistics & numerical data*
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Natural Gas*
  • Oil and Gas Fields*
  • Petroleum
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / analysis*
  • Pyrenes
  • Silicones
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry


  • Air Pollutants
  • Natural Gas
  • Petroleum
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • Pyrenes
  • Silicones
  • pyrene