Toxic Chemical Air Pollution Found Near Gas & Oil Development Sites
New Study & Report Warns of Potential Health Problems Related to Fracking
(Oakland, CA)-A new study looking at air quality testing near oil and gas development sites, including fracking operations, found serious air pollution issues, including sites with chemical levels that were hundreds of times higher than some current federal air quality safety standards. The study of sites in six states — Arkansas, Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and Wyoming – suggests that people who are exposed to chemicals from fracking and other oil and gas sites at or above those health risk levels could experience higher risks of cancer and/or other health problems.
The study in the journal Environmental Health, “Air concentrations of volatile compounds near oil and gas production: A community-based exploratory study,” was released along with a new report titled Warning Signs: Toxic Air Pollution at Oil and Gas Development Sites. Caroline Cox, Research Director at the Center for Environmental Health (CEH), a co-author of the study, noted that “We are very concerned about communities living near fracking sites, especially women and children who are particularly vulnerable to health problems from fracking pollution. Many of the chemicals identified in these fracking emissions are known to cause serious health problems.”
Findings of the study include:
- Fifteen of the 35 “grab” air samples (meaning, where air is intentionally drawn into a sampling device), had concentrations of volatile chemicals that exceeded federal exposure risk levels for cancer, or for non-cancer health effects.
- Fourteen of the 41 passive samples (where air naturally passes through a sampling device) had concentrations of volatile chemicals that exceeded federal exposure risk levels for cancer, or for non-cancer health effects.
- One sample had air pollution levels that may pose an immediate danger to life or health, according to Centers for Disease Control guidelines.
- Benzene, a known human carcinogen, was detected at sample locations in Pennsylvania and Wyoming, in levels exceeding health-based standards by several orders of magnitude.
- In three states, formaldehyde was detected at levels exceeding the health-based standards of the U.S. EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System.
Many of the chemicals identified in these fracking emissions are known to cause serious health problems,” said CEH East Coast Director Ansje Miller, coordinator of CEH’s contributions to the study. CEH supports the current New York State fracking moratorium. “Instead of fracking we should be focusing on renewable solutions that provide healthier energy alternatives to fossil fuels like oil and gas.”
The air monitoring study and report were conducted as a joint project of CEH with its partners in the Coming Clean coalition, including Global Community Monitor. The groups worked with more than 12 community organizations in the six states, along with numerous national health, science and sustainable business organizations. The groups conducted the project because community members feel they are being sickened by chemicals from nearby oil and gas development sites.
In Pennsylvania, air sampling in Washington and Susquehanna Counties revealed high levels of benzene and formaldehyde, known human carcinogens, at concentrations exceeding health-based standards by as many as several orders of magnitude. Paul Feezel from Carroll Concerned Citizens said, “Our rural communities have been utterly transformed into industrial zones, with fracking and other oil and gas activities happening a stone’s throw from where people live, work and play. We don’t want to have to move, and for many people that’s not an option anyway. We have the right to live healthy right here.”
Many organizations involved are already advocating that state and federal regulatory agencies act urgently to improve monitoring methods and restrict development activities. “In New York, residents worked toward a statewide ban on fracking,” said Wes Gillingham from Catskill Mountainkeeper. “The air sampling results from other states shows clearly why this moratorium on fracking should remain in place. We can still prevent some of the destruction that other communities are experiencing.”
The CEH website has links to the study, the report, and more information.