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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Colorado Study: Living Near Oil and Gas Facilities May Have Higher Health Risks

People living near oil and gas facilities along Colorado’s Northern Front Range may be exposed to hazardous air pollutants, including carcinogens like benzene, that could pose health risks above levels deemed acceptable by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency according to a study led by the Colorado School of Public Health: University of Colorado.

[Photo: An oil derrick stands late in the day against the mountains]

The study, conducted by lead author Dr. Lisa McKenzie,  assistant research professor in environmental and occupational health at ColoradoSPH and co-authors Dr. John Adgate, chair of the department, Dr. John Hughes, clinical assistant professor, and professional research assistants Mr. William Allshouse and Mr. Benjamin Blair, used ambient air samples to estimate and compare risks for four residential scenarios. It found the lifetime cancer risk of those living within 500 feet of a well was eight times higher than the EPA’s upper level risk threshold.

“We found that air pollutant concentrations increased with proximity to an oil and gas facility, as did health risks,” the study said. “Acute hazard indices for neurological, hematological and developmental health effects indicate that populations living within 152 meters (500 feet) of an oil and gas facility could experience these health effects from inhalation exposures to benzene and alkanes.”

The cancer risk estimate of 8.3 per 10,000 for populations living within 500 feet of an oil and gas facility exceeded the U.S. EPA’s 1 in 10,000 upper threshold, according to study published recently in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Read the entire story in the ColoradoSPH Newsroom.