Fracking and Indoor Radon: Spurious Correlation or Cause for Concern?

43 Pages Posted: 20 Oct 2018

See all articles by Katie Jo Black

Katie Jo Black

Kenyon College

Shawn McCoy

University of Pittsburgh - Department of Economics

Jeremy Weber

University of Pittsburgh - Graduate School of Public & International Affairs

Date Written: October 19, 2018

Abstract

Unconventional oil and gas development (fracking) is controversial in large part because of environmental and health concerns. We consider one concern and revisit the estimated association between fracking and radon in nearby homes. We find that published estimates are sensitive to modest changes in sample definition or model specification. Further exploitation of rich spatial and temporal variation in drilling and radon testing reveals that drilling occurred in areas that had higher pre-existing radon levels. Models accounting for the confounding correlation give a precisely estimated zero effect of wells on radon concentrations in nearby buildings. Our study illustrates the value of revisiting published estimates but also its challenges. The time and effort required to access confidential data from the original provider can be considerable and even increase following a headline-making publication, as occurred in our case.

Keywords: Radon; Fracking; Pennsylvania; Reproduction

JEL Classification: Q50; Q53

Suggested Citation

Black, Katie Jo and McCoy, Shawn and Weber, Jeremy, Fracking and Indoor Radon: Spurious Correlation or Cause for Concern? (October 19, 2018). USAEE Working Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3269889 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3269889

Katie Jo Black

Kenyon College ( email )

Gambier, OH 43022
United States

Shawn McCoy

University of Pittsburgh - Department of Economics ( email )

4901 Wesley Posvar Hall
230 South Bouquet Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States

Jeremy Weber (Contact Author)

University of Pittsburgh - Graduate School of Public & International Affairs ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15260-0001
United States

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