Thursday, March 22, 2012

Study finds health risks are greater for those living near natural-gas wells

Air pollution from hydraulic fracturing has been linked to health problems in those living near drilling sites, the Environmental News Network reports. The three-year Colorado School of Public Health study shows fracking raises levels of toxic gases, which include traces of cancer-causing elements. "Our data show that it is important to include air pollution in the national dialogue on natural-gas development that has focused largely on water exposures to hydraulic fracturing," said lead author Lisa McKenzie. The study will be published in the next issue of Science of the Total Environment.

Research was conducted with residents living about a half-mile from wells in Garfield County, Colorado (Wikipedia map), where there's been a rapid expansion of gas production. The county asked the School of Public Health to conduct the study for wells in the Battlement Mesa community. Researchers conclude in the report that health risks are greater for those living closest to wells, and suggests emissions be reduced.

The report found potentially toxic petroleum hydrocarbons and carcinogens in the air near wells, including benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene and xylene. "Our results show that the non-cancer health impacts from air emissions due to natural gas development is greater for residents living closer to wells," the report said. "The greatest health impact corresponds to the relatively short-term, but high emission, well completion period." Exposure to trimethylbenzenes, aliaphatic hydrocarbons, and xylenes increases during that time, reports Click Green. Those elements can cause neurological and/or respiratory problems, including eye irritation, headaches, sore throat and difficulty breathing. (Read more)

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