Exposure from natural gas drilling tests air standards

Apr 4th, 2014 | By | Category: General

by David Brown, Beth Weinberger, Celia Lewis, Heather Bonaparte
Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project, McMurray, PA, USA
Corresponding author: David Brown, Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project, 4198 Washington Road, Suite 5, McMurray, PA 15317, USA

Recent and projected growth in the oil and gas production sector has underscored the need for EPA to gain a better understanding of emissions and potential risks from this industry sector. Harmful pollutants emitted from this industry include air toxics such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene; criteria pollutants and ozone precursors such as NOx and VOCs; and greenhouse gases such as methane. These pollutants can result in serious health impacts such as cancer, respiratory disease, aggravation of respiratory illnesses, and premature death. However, EPA has limited directly-measured air emissions data on criteria and toxic air pollutants for several important oil and gas production processes. [These] limited data, coupled with poor quality and insufficient emission factors and incomplete NEI data, hamper EPA’s ability to assess air quality impacts from selected oil and gas production activities.

– US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Inspector General (1)

The question we, and others, have asked is: do the levels of exposure to the mixture of unconventional natural gas development (UNGD) emissions constitute a potential human health hazard to those living very near UNGD activities (2–7)? The answer hinges on the emissions themselves, their synergistic effects, the methodology used for collecting and analyzing data, and the standards for gauging human health risk. More specifically, the answer hinges on whether the methodology used is designed to capture the important features of episodic and fluctuating emissions and exposures that characterize UNGD activity.

For more on this story, visit: Understanding exposure from natural gas drilling puts current air standards to the test : Reviews on Environmental Health.

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