Heart disease greater in people living near oil & gas wells

New York: People living near areas with oil and gas exploration sites could be at more risk of developing cardiovascular disease, say researchers.

The pilot study found that those who lived in these areas showed early signs of CVD, including higher blood pressure, changes in the stiffness of blood vessels, and markers of inflammation.

“We are not sure whether the responsible factor is noise or emissions from the well pads or something else, but we did observe that with more intense oil and gas activity around a person’s home, cardiovascular disease indicator levels increased,” said Lisa McKenzie, Assistant Research Professor from the University of Colorado in the US.

For the study, published in the journal Environmental Research, the team measured indicators of CVD among nearly 100 men and women. These participants did not smoke tobacco or marijuana and had no history of diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or chronic inflammatory disease like asthma or arthritis.

Also, the participants did not have jobs that exposed them to dust, fumes, solvents or oil or gas development activities.

While behavioural and genetic factors contribute to the burden of CVD, exposure to environmental stressors, such as air pollution, noise and psychosocial stress also contribute to cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.

One increasingly common source of these stressors is extraction of oil and gas in residential areas, which includes fracking, horizontal drilling, and micro-seismic imaging, the researchers said.

In addition, previous studies have shown that short and long-term exposure to the kind of particulate matter emitted from oil and gas operations may be associated with increases in CVD and death.