Natural gas development, flaring practices and paediatric asthma hospitalizations in Texas

Int J Epidemiol. 2021 Jan 23;49(6):1883-1896. doi: 10.1093/ije/dyaa115.


Background: Recent advancements in drilling technology led to a rapid increase in natural gas development (NGD). Air pollution may be elevated in these areas and may vary by drilling type (conventional and unconventional), production volume and gas flaring. Impacts of NGD on paediatric asthma are largely unknown. This study quantifies associations between specific NGD activities and paediatric asthma hospitalizations in Texas.

Methods: We leveraged a database of Texas inpatient hospitalizations between 2000 and 2010 at the zip code level by quarter to examine associations between NGD and paediatric asthma hospitalizations, where our primary outcome is 0 vs ≥1 hospitalization. We used quarterly production reports to assess additional drilling-specific exposures at the zip code-level including drilling type, production and gas flaring. We developed logistic regression models to assess paediatric asthma hospitalizations by zip code-quarter-year observations, thus capturing spatiotemporal exposure patterns.

Results: We observed increased odds of ≥1 paediatric asthma hospitalization in a zip code per quarter associated with increasing tertiles of NGD exposure and show that spatiotemporal variation impacts results. Conventional drilling, compared with no drilling, is associated with odds ratios up to 1.23 [95% confidence interval (CI): 1.13, 1.34], whereas unconventional drilling is associated with odds ratios up to 1.59 (95% CI: 1.46, 1.73). Increasing production volumes are associated with increased paediatric asthma hospitalizations in an exposure-response relationship, whereas associations with flaring volumes are inconsistent.

Conclusions: We found evidence of associations between paediatric asthma hospitalizations and NGD, regardless of drilling type. Practices related to production volume may be driving these positive associations.

Keywords: Natural gas drilling; asthma; children’s health; environmental health; flaring; natural gas production.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Asthma* / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Natural Gas*
  • Texas / epidemiology


  • Natural Gas