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Study Finds Air Pollutants Near Drilling Sites

Susan Phillips / StateImpact Pennsylvania

A natural gas drill rig looms above a farm in Susquehanna County, Pa.

A peer-reviewed study published last week shows air quality impacts near drilling sites in rural Colorado. “An Exploratory Study of Air Quality Near Natural Gas Operations,” conducted by The Endocrine Disruption Exchange, was published in the journal Human and Ecological Risk Assessment. The study is the first to measure air quality before, during and after drilling and hydraulic fracturing operations. It found non-methane hydrocarbons rose to their highest concentration during the initial drilling, but did not increase during fracking operations.
Researchers were surprised by one pollutant.

“Methylene chloride, a toxic solvent not reported in products used in drilling or hydraulic fracturing, was detected 73% of the time; several times in high concentrations.”

Researchers say health impacts could result from the release of these air pollutants near residential areas.

“A literature search of the health effects of the NMHCs revealed that many had multiple health effects, including 30 that affect the endocrine system, which is susceptible to chemical impacts at very low concentrations, far less than government safety standards. Selected polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were at concentrations greater than those at which prenatally exposed children in urban studies had lower developmental and IQ scores. The human and environmental health impacts of the NMHCs, which are ozone precursors, should be examined further given that the natural gas industry is now operating in close proximity to human residences and public lands.”

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