Natural gas not so ‘natural’ after all 0

An analysis of air samples from neighbours of natural gas operations have detected 22 toxic air contaminants resulting in significant air pollution including four carcinogens, toxins known to damage the nervous system and respiratory irritants.

The Global Community Monitor has released its report, GASSED! Citizen Investigation of Toxic Air Pollution from Natural Gas Development.

Summary Air Sampling Results

A total of 22 toxic chemicals were detected in the nine air samples, including four carcinogens, toxins known to damage the nervous system and respiratory irritants. The levels were between three to 3,000 times higher than levels established by public health agencies to estimate increased risk of serious health effects and cancer based on long-term exposure.

•    Benzene, a known carcinogen, was found at high concentrations in four air samples at levels between 6.3 and 47 μg/m3. These levels are 48.5 to 800 times higher than the level set by the US EPA of 0.13 μg/m3 to estimate increased cancer risk from long-term exposure. Levels of benzene in one of the nine samples, collected near the local Elementary School, exceeded the level set by the U.S. EPA for benzene (30 μg/m3) to estimate increased risk of non-cancer health effects.
•    Acrylonitrile, a human carcinogen, was found in five samples at levels between 7.9 and 30 μg/m3. These levels are 790 to 3000 times above the U.S. EPA level of 0.01 μg/m3, set to estimate an increased risk of cancer from long term exposure. All of these levels correspond to what EPA would consider an “unacceptable cancer risk” in that long-term exposure is associated with a cancer risk of greater than 100 in a million. Acrylonitrile is also a respiratory irritant, causing degeneration and inflammation of nasal epithelium. Levels of acrylonitrile in the five samples exceeded the level set by U.S. EPA for risk of increased non-cancer health effects from long term exposure (2 μg/m3) by 3 to 15 times.19
•   Methylene chloride, a human carcinogen, was found in five samples at levels between 7.9 and 17 μg/m3. These levels are 3 to 8 times higher than the level set by the U.S. EPA (2.0 μg/m3.) to estimate an increased risk of cancer from long-term exposure.
•    Ethylbenzene, a human carcinogen, was found in five samples at levels between 5.1 to 22 μg/m3. These levels are 12 to 55 times higher than the level set by the US EPA (0.4μg/m3) to estimate increased cancer risk cancer from long-term exposure.
•    Xylene, were found at a level of 100 and 154 μg/m3. These levels exceed the U.S. EPA’s level for estimating increased non-cancer health risks of 100 μg/m3.
•    Hydrogen sulfide was found in one sample at 370 μg/m3 which is more than 185 times above the long term level set by the U.S. EPA (2 μg/m3) to estimate increased risk of serious health effects. Long-term exposure to hydrogen sulfide is associated with an elevated incidence of respiratory infections, irritation of the eye and nose, cough, breathlessness, nausea, headache, and mental symptoms, including depression. The World Health Organization’s Guideline Value for exposure to hydrogen sulfide is 7 μg/m3 over a 30-minute period.
These results demonstrate that local communities, workers and the environment are at risk of exposure to multiple chemicals from natural gas operations. At the levels detected, the individual exposures can cause an increased risk of cancer and other serious health effects ad there are no health-based standards for exposure to multiple chemicals either in US or Australia.

Download NTN briefing paper: Toxic Air Pollution from Natural Gas Development

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