Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Fracking Study Shows Toxic Chemical Exposure 2,000 Feet From Drilling Sites

Fracking
A fracking well looms over a residential area of Liberty, Colorado on Aug. 19. WildEarth Guardians / Flickr

A new multiyear study found that people living or working within 2,000 feet, or nearly half a mile, of a hydraulic fracturing (fracking) drill site may be at a heightened risk of exposure to benzene and other toxic chemicals, according to research released Thursday by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE)


The study concluded that people living within almost a half-mile radius of a fracking well have an increased risk of feeling the effects of chemical exposure though headaches, nausea, dizziness, nosebleeds and respiratory trouble, according to The Denver Post.

Until now, Colorado has had a 500-foot minimum distance that drilling wells can be from homes. The study found that, in certain conditions, toxic chemicals like benzene, toluene and ethyltoluenes could be up to 10 times the recommended levels at a 500-foot distance. As you move away from the fracking site, the chemicals dissipate, but could still be at unsafe levels at 2,000 feet away, as Newsweek reported.

That takes into account only the chemicals that are known. Some chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process are trade secrets. As Newsweek reported, a recent study from the Partnership for Policy Integrity noted that natural gas drillers use a law that allows some of their chemicals to remain secretive.

"Secret exposure to chemicals that our own EPA reports as a potential hazard to human health is unconscionable," said Alan Lockwood, MD, of Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) to Newsweek. "Healthcare professionals can't possibly treat patients properly, make protective public health plans and decisions, and protect first responders without knowing what chemicals are in the environment."

The CDPHE report strengthens Governor Jared Polis' argument that emissions from Colorado's powerful oil and gas industry need to be reined in. The finding also helps explain the complaints 750 residents living near oil and gas facilities made to the state's health department, said state toxicologist Kristy Richardson, as The Denver Post reported. Around 60 percent of those complaints involved symptoms commensurate with chemical exposure, such as headaches, dizziness and difficulty breathing.

Computer modeling from the study is expected to help regulators set new standards for the minimum distance a drilling site can be from a home.

"This study is the first of its kind because it used actual emissions data to model potential exposure and health risks," said CDPHE environmental programs director John Putnam, according to The Denver Post. "While we pursue further research, we won't delay enacting stricter emissions standards for chemicals that cause human effects, ozone pollution and climate change. This study reinforces what we already know: We need to minimize emissions from oil and gas sources."

State regulators insisted they would start to take a close look at all new applications for drilling within 2,000 feet of any residence and that they would start testing air emissions around industry wells. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission said it would start to use its money to test air quality around homes near gas wells, according to The Denver Post.

Community activists praised the findings and insisted that state lawmakers need to prioritize community health and rein in oil and gas industry pollution.

"Dozens of children living in close proximity to oil and gas have already documented off-the-charts levels of benzene in their blood," said Colorado Rising spokeswoman Anne Lee Foster, as The Denver Post reported. "Considering this and the corroborative data of the study, the state must pause oil and gas permitting and ensure that public health and safety is protected — as new legislation mandates."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Pexels

By Joe Leech

The human body comprises around 60% water.

It's commonly recommended that you drink eight 8-ounce (237-mL) glasses of water per day (the 8×8 rule).

Read More Show Less

By Michael Svoboda

The enduring pandemic will make conventional forms of travel difficult if not impossible this summer. As a result, many will consider virtual alternatives for their vacations, including one of the oldest forms of virtual reality – books.

Read More Show Less
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility on Thursday accused NOAA of ignoring its own scientists' findings about the endangerment of the North Atlantic right whale. Lauren Packard / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By Julia Conley

As the North Atlantic right whale was placed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's list of critically endangered species Thursday, environmental protection groups accusing the U.S. government of bowing to fishing and fossil fuel industry pressure to downplay the threat and failing to enact common-sense restrictions to protect the animals.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Beth Ann Mayer

Since even moderate-intensity workouts offer a slew of benefits, walking is a good choice for people looking to stay healthy.

Read More Show Less
Much of Eastern Oklahoma, including most of Tulsa, remains an Indian reservation, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday. JustTulsa / CC BY 2.0

Much of Eastern Oklahoma, including most of Tulsa, remains an Indian reservation, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.

Read More Show Less
The Firefly Watch project is among the options for aspiring citizen scientists to join. Mike Lewinski / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 2.0

By Tiffany Means

Summer and fall are great seasons to enjoy the outdoors. But if you're already spending extra time outside because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be out of ideas on how to make fresh-air activities feel special. Here are a few suggestions to keep both adults and children entertained and educated in the months ahead, many of which can be done from the comfort of one's home or backyard.

Read More Show Less

Trending

People sit at the bar of a restaurant in Austin, Texas, on June 26, 2020. Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered bars to be closed by noon on June 26 and for restaurants to be reduced to 50% occupancy. Coronavirus cases in Texas spiked after being one of the first states to begin reopening. SERGIO FLORES / AFP via Getty Images

The coronavirus may linger in the air in crowded indoor spaces, spreading from one person to the next, the World Health Organization acknowledged on Thursday, as The New York Times reported. The announcement came just days after 239 scientists wrote a letter urging the WHO to consider that the novel coronavirus is lingering in indoor spaces and infecting people, as EcoWatch reported.

Read More Show Less