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Air Pollution from Oil and Gas is Threatening Communities: Urgent EPA Action Needed

air pollution

Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, Scientist, San Francisco

Although contaminated air has been at the heart of communities’ concerns about the fracking boom for almost a decade, the scientific and regulatory community has just started to fill in the gaps. Even during the past five years of my own research, the evidence has grown like a scary movie where you hope that things aren’t as bad as they seem – but then they get worse. Air testing and health studies are now sounding the alarm about air pollution in communities on the frontlines of fracking across the country.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must not continue to look the other way and let this industry poison the air in communities. The Agency must act on the science they requested and limit the pollution from oil and gas facilities.

While communities living with fracking in their backyards, playgrounds, and even right next to schools, complained of symptoms like breathing and neurological problems, industry and many government agencies reassured them there weren’t any health threats. Over the past two years, health studies have begun to find worrisome patterns. Two studies, in Colorado and Pennsylvania, found that babies born to mothers living in areas with a high density of oil and gas wells were at increased risk of health problems. And astudy conducted in counties hard-hit by the fracking boom in Pennsylvania, found significant increases in hospital stays in those areas with more oil and gas wells. The authors of each of these studies express concern that air pollution from the oil and gas facilities may be the cause of their findings. Another study just published this past month concluded that restrictions on how close oil and gas facilities can be located to homes and schools are not “fully protective” from health threats related to air pollution.

At the same time, the science my colleague and I compiled in our 2014 report, Fracking Fumes, showing harmful levels of air pollution near oil and gas facilities has increased. This week, in response to EPA’srequest for information on pollution from oil and gas facilities, we will be submitting this science – from 31 peer-reviewed journal publications – to the Agency. These studies, which finds toxic air pollution in communities near oil and gas sites across the country, demonstrates the inadequacy of EPA’s current standards set over 3 years ago. Communities, scientists, and health experts are calling on the EPA to review the science and put in place the protections that will help curb the health threats from oil and gas facilities – stay tuned for updates to this blog with more links and information.

The recentnatural gas leak in Southern California was a dramatic reminder of the health threats that oil and gas companies can bring right into Americans’ backyards–but the impacts are not limited to this disaster. Science continues to show this industry is poisoning the air people breathe in communities around the country every day. EPA is armed with the facts about the dangers–and it must act to set strong national standards to limit harmful pollution endangering communities.

Photo Credit: Isengardt via Flickr

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