Evaluate whether childhood cancer incidence is associated with counties with hydraulic fracturing (HF).
We compared cancer incidence in children in Pennsylvania counties before and after HF drilling began, using standardized incidence ratios (SIRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs).
The total number of cancers observed was close to expected both before drilling began (SIR = 0.94; 95% CI, 0.90 to 0.99) and after drilling (SIR = 1.02; 95% CI, 0.98 to 1.07) for counties with oil and natural gas wells. Analyses for childhood leukemia were also unremarkable (SIR for leukemia before drilling = 0.97 [95% CI, 0.88 to 1.06]; SIR for leukemia after drilling = 1.01 [95% CI, 0.92 to 1.11]). A slightly elevated SIR was found for central nervous system tumors after drilling (SIR = 1.13; 95% CI, 1.02 to 1.25). This was because of a slight excess in those counties with the fewest number of wells.
This study offers comfort concerning health effects of HF on childhood cancers.