A growing body of evidence shows that people both near and far from oil and gas drilling are exposed to fracking pollution in the air that can cause at least five major types of health impacts, according to a new comprehensive analysis of scientific studies to-date by the Natural Resources Defense Council. The health impacts include respiratory problems, birth defects, blood disorders, cancer and nervous system impacts, raising serious concerns for workers and people living closest to wells, as well as entire regions with high volumes of oil and gas activity.
“The health risks from fracking are not limited to what’s in our drinking water—oil and gas operations are also poisoning the air we breathe,” said NRDC senior scientist Miriam Rotkin-Ellman. “While industry continues to try to sweep the impacts of fracking under a rug, the science keeps revealing serious health threats—for workers, families living nearby and entire regions with heavy oil and gas activity.”
Fracking Fumes: Air Pollution from Hydraulic Fracturing Threatens Public Health and Communities provides the most comprehensive analysis of available science to-date on toxic air pollution from oil and gas development. It identifies an emerging pattern in the science revealing unsafe levels of air pollution near fracking sites around the country. More research is needed to better understand a wide range of other threats that have emerged.
The report breaks down the health impacts that scientists have identified on the local, regional and global scales. It shows that health threats from fracking pollution are not limited to communities with drilling directly in their backyards. Rather, entire regions with high levels of oil and gas activity are paying the price with smog-filled skies and respiratory problems.
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.
With approximately one in four Americans now living within a mile of an oil or gas well, and fracking spreading the industry’s reach even further across the country, this report underscores the need for immediate action to protect public health.
Read more at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Fracking image credit: Chrstopher Halloran via Shutterstock.