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A Multiregion Analysis of Shale Drilling Activity and Rates of Sexually Transmitted Infections in the United States.

Abstract

In Texas, county-years with high drilling activity had 10% increased rates of chlamydia (RR, 1.10; 95% CI, 1.04-1.17) and 15% increased rates of gonorrhea (RR, 1.15; 95% CI, 1.04-1.28), compared with county-years with no drilling. No statistically significant associations were reported for syphilis or for any STIs in Colorado or North Dakota.

Fossil fuel extraction from deep shale rock formations using new drilling technologies such as hydraulic fracturing has rapidly increased in the Unites States over the past decade. Increases in nonlocal, specialized workers to meet the demands of this complex industry have been suggested to influence the rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in counties with shale drilling activity; these associations may vary geographically. In this multiregion analysis, we examine the associations between shale drilling activity and rates of 3 reportable STIs in Colorado, North Dakota, and Texas, states with active shale drilling.

Associations between shale drilling and chlamydia and gonorrhea in Texas may reflect increased risk in areas with higher drilling activity and a greater number of major metropolitan areas. Interstate differences highlight the need for local epidemiology to prioritize community health policies.

We obtained annual reported rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, number of active shale wells from Enverus (formerly known as DrillingInfo), and sociodemographic covariates from the US Census Bureau. We used multivariable mixed-effects Poisson regression modeling to estimate rate ratios (RR) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) adjusted for potential confounders and secular trends.

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