Fracking Fumes: Air Pollution from Hydraulic Fracturing Threatens Public Health and Communities

Natural Resources Defense Council

[From NRDC Press Release] …there is the greatest amount of evidence raising concern about risks for the following health impacts [related to air pollution from shale gas operations]:

  • Respiratory Problems: Impacts can include asthma attacks, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing and lung disease. Levels of pollutants high enough to cause respiratory problems, particularly for vulnerable populations such as children, have been found both close to fracking sites and in regions with intense oil and gas activity. Workers have been found to be at risk of permanent lung damage caused by exposure to silica fracking sand.
  • Nervous System Impacts: Exposure to these pollutants, such as VOCs and hydrogen sulfide, can cause neurological problems ranging from dizziness and headaches to seizures and loss of consciousness. Multiple studies have measured benzene levels close to fracking sites that are higher than the thresholds set to protect people from these impacts.
  • Birth Defects & Harm to the Developing Fetus: A number of VOCs and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) have been found to interfere with fetal and child development resulting in harm to the developing heart, brain and nervous system. Because even short-term exposures to these pollutants at critical moments of development can result in long-lasting harm, health experts have identified this as a threat for communities living in close proximity to fracking sites.
  • Blood Disorders: The levels of benzene measured in multiple studies were high enough to raise concerns about permanent damage to blood-forming organs, resulting in harm to bone marrow and anemia, if there were repeated or chronic exposures.
  • Cancer: Cancer-causing pollutants like benzene, formaldehyde, diesel particulates and PAHs, have also been found in the air near fracking sites. Repeated or chronic exposures to these pollutants can cause an increased risk of cancer.
 Studies have also found pollutants linked to other health impacts near fracking operations, including heart problems and harm to the liver, kidney, endocrine, immune, reproductive, gastrointestinal and auditory systems. More research is needed to better understand the level of risk for these impacts to workers, neighboring families and communities.
Unfortunately, air pollution impacts have gone largely ignored by federal and state agencies to date. The Environmental Protection Agency, as well as state governments, must address air pollution from oil and gas development in order to protect the health of neighboring residents…

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