Online Program

Ethyl Benzene (EB) Exposure and Potential Health Effects From Natural Gas Extraction in Urban Areas (Urban Drilling)

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Obioma Ilouga, M.B.B.S, MPH (Expected Fall 2015), Department of Environmental and Occuaptional Health Sciences,, University of North Texas Health Science Center, School of Public Health, Fort Worth, TX

To examine the presence of ethyl benzene (EB) in ambient air in residential areas experiencing natural gas extraction and processing (E&P) and identify potential health impacts.


Residential communities affected by “urban drilling” have raised concerns about potential health effects from exposure to toxic chemicals.  This study examines ethyl benzene (EB) in ambient air in residential communities experiencing E&P operations and potential health impacts from EB exposure. Natural gas processing occurring at pad sites located in residential areas may be additional sources of toxic EB emissions.


A meta-analysis was performed and articles related to health effects from EB exposure evaluated. Databases searched included: Pub-Med, Scopus, Science direct and TOXLINE. Keywords were ethyl benzene, health effects, occupational exposure, natural gas and ambient air. Initially, 500 articles on the health effects of EB were selected. Publication dates ranged from 1967 to 2014. Inclusion criteria were occupational exposure, health effects, ambient air and toxicological animal studies. Exclusion criteria included soil and groundwater contamination, and EB exposure from other sources like cigarette smoke. Retrieved abstracts were evaluated for relation to study focus. Fifty articles were selected and reviewed as full text.


Occupational studies of EB exposed workers in natural gas and petrochemical industries, confirmed multi-system toxic effects. Animal studies supported the findings. Adverse health effects included respiratory, cardiovascular, reproductive, hematologic, digestive/liver, excretory and endocrine impairment. Ambient air monitoring studies confirmed elevated levels of EB in residential communities experiencing urban drilling.


Communities where natural gas E&P operations are occurring may experience occupational-like exposure to EB and elevated risk of adverse health effect when compared to other areas. Current literature on health effects from EB exposure is lacking and limited to occupational studies. Future studies examining occupational-like EB exposures in residential communities experiencing urban drilling are recommended.

Learning Areas:

Environmental health sciences
Occupational health and safety

Learning Objectives:
Describe the potential health effects associated with ethyl benzene exposure

Keyword(s): Environmental Health, Occupational Health and Safety

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have worked on this research and I am knowledgeable on the topic
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.