With natural gas drilling on the rise (Penn State, 2012), there is a general lack of data on the emissions from the entire lifecycle of hydraulic fracturing. This research project is designed to study the health impacts of emissions from high volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) production and at HVHF well sites. Using data from previous research (Korfmacher et al., 2015 and Korfmacher et al., 2016) and the Environmental Protections Agency's Environmental Benefits Mapping and Analysis Program - Community Edition (BenMAP-CE), estimated health impacts and economic costs of emissions are analyzed. This study models the health impacts and economic costs of particulate matter (PM), an inhalable pollutant known to cause adverse health effects (OAR US EPA 2016a). Specifically, the study focuses on emissions at unconventional wells associated with HVHF in Pennsylvania. Based on modeling results, 2,000-5,000 people throughout Pennsylvania are being impacted by PM emissions released during HVHF activities, with higher percentages of the population per grid cell (0.01%-0.25%) impacted near well site locations, as compared to other parts of the state (0.0001%-0.006%). This study found that emissions from PM generated during HVHF activities in Pennsylvania during the years 2011-2015 would result in an estimated 2,100-5,300 premature deaths with 95% confidence intervals of 600-3,500 deaths and 2,400-8,000 deaths respectively. The cost of these premature mortalities are estimated to be $14 billion-$37 with 95% confidence intervals of $1 billion-$34 billion and $4 billion-$79 billion respectively. This study shows that there is an increased risk of mortality from PM released during HVHF activities near well sites that appears to be currently underreported due to a lack of EPA monitors in rural parts of the country. This study acts as a guide to highlight problem areas in rural parts of the country, where monitoring stations are lacking and emissions from wells are relatively high.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Hydraulic fracturing--Health aspects; Hydraulic fracturing--Environmental aspects; Hydraulic fracturing--Economic aspects; Contamination (Technology)--Health aspects

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Environmental Science (MS)

Department, Program, or Center

Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Sciences (COS)


Karl Korfmacher

Advisor/Committee Member

J. Scott Hawker

Advisor/Committee Member

James Winebrake


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes