Fracking and Air Contamination

  • According to the Health Impact Assessment for Battlement Mesa, Garfield County Colorado, University of Colorado Denver School of Public Health Study: People living within half a mile of oil and gas well fracking operations were exposed to air pollutants five times above a federal hazard standard. Some of these pollutants cause cancer, neurological and respiratory effects.
  • Colorado’s Dr. Theo Colborn recently completed a study of air pollution from a closed loop oil and gas fracking well drilling pad located on the West slope of Colorado. The study, An Exploratory Study of Air Quality near Natural Gas Operations, found 44 hazardous chemicals in the air many of which cause cancer and damage to the brain, nervous system lungs, kidneys, cardiovascular system, endocrine system, genes, liver, immune system, skin, eyes and other parts of the body. (Download the article,  p11 and p21, table 4.)Since Colborn’s study was of a closed loop oil and gas well drilling operation, and since most oil and gas operations, including those planned for the Colorado Springs region, are not closed loop, her findings are very conservative. According to Colborn, up to 95% of VOCs can be captured by a closed loop well pad operation. See the video: What You Need to Know About Natural Gas Production

“As natural gas production rapidly increases across the U.S., its associated pollution has reached the stage where it is contaminating essential life support systems – water, air, and soil – and causing harm to the health of humans, wildlife, domestic animals, and vegetation.”

“Toxic chemicals are used at every stage of development to reach and release the gas.”

“Many of the chemicals found in drilling and evaporation pits are considered hazardous wastes by the Superfund Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). Upon closure, every pit has the potential to become a Superfund site.”

“In addition to the land and water contamination issues, at each stage of production and delivery, tons of toxic volatile compounds, including benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene, etc., and fugitive natural gas (methane), escape and mix with nitrogen oxides from the exhaust of diesel-driven, mobile and stationary equipment to produce ground-level ozone. Ozone combined with particulate matter less than 2.5 microns produces smog (haze). Gas field produced ozone has created a serious air pollution problem similar to that found in large urban areas, and can spread up to 200 miles beyond the immediate region where gas is being produced. Ozone not only causes irreversible damage to the lungs, it is equally damaging to conifers, aspen, forage, alfalfa, and other crops commonly grown in the West.”

  • NOAA Study In Colorado: Colorado study assesses potential health risks of toxic gases associated with oil and gas drilling. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found, based on three years of air quality monitoring, twice as much methane was leaked into the atmosphere than had been estimated from wells in Weld County, tons of toxic Benzene (a known carcinogen) and a number of other potentially toxic petroleum hydrocarbons including ethylbenzene, toluene and xylene. Other chemicals included heptane, octane and diethylbenzene. Emissions of more reactive volatile organic compounds, which contribute to lung-damaging ozone pollution, were also underestimated.
  • New Report Reveals Toxic Air Near Natural Gas Operations. A coalition of environmental and community based organizations in Colorado and New Mexico collected nine air samples that were analyzed by a certified lab. The lab detected a total of 22 toxic chemicals in the air samples, including four known carcinogens, as well as toxins known to damage the nervous system and respiratory irritants. The chemicals detected ranged from 3 to 3,000 times higher than what is considered safe by state and federal agencies. Sampling was conducted in the San Juan Basin area of Colorado and New Mexico, as well as Garfield County in western Colorado.
  • How Shale Gas Development Risks Public Health in Pennsylvania “Where oil and gas development goes, health problems often follow. Between August 2011 and July 2012, Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project (OGAP) investigated the extent, types, and possible causes of health symptoms experienced by people living in the gas patches of Pennsylvania.” What they found was contrary to oil and gas industry claims that most health impacts are isolated incidents.
  • “There is evidence that many of the chemicals used in fracking can damage the lungs, liver, kidneys, blood, and brain. We discuss the controversial technique of fracking and raise the issue of how to balance the need for energy with the protection of the public’s health.” -The rush to drill for natural gas: A public cautionary tale.