Cancer risks elevated in areas near oil and gas wells

Cancer risks elevated in areas near oil and gas wells

A new study from researchers at the Colorado School of Public Health suggests that living near oil and gas operations could result in exposure to dangerously high levels of carcinogens — and that current state regulations aren’t sufficient to protect public health.

According to the study, which looked at families living near oil and gas wells in Colorado’s Northern Front Range, the lifetime cancer risk of living within 500 feet of a well was eight times higher than the highest level of risk allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The study looked at 500 feet, specifically, because Colorado law requires that new oil and gas wells be built at least 500 feet from homes. According to FracTracker, there were more than 60,000 active oil and gas wells in Colorado as of May 2017. It’s unclear how many wells are within 500 feet of homes, though an analysis by Inside Energy found that since 2013, 220 new wells have been built within 500 feet of homes in Colorado’s Northern Front Range.

Living near oil and gas operations comes with a host of concerns, from nuisance noise to the danger of an explosion. But the Colorado School of Public Health Study — published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology — looked specifically at air quality near oil and gas operations, and found high levels of carcinogenic compounds like benzene, which has been linked to certain kinds of cancers, like leukemia.

“The highest concentrations of hazardous air pollutants were measured in samples collected nearest to an oil and gas facility,” Lisa McKenzie, an assistant research professor in the Environmental and Occupational Health department at Colorado School of Public Health and the study’s lead author, said in a press statement. “For example, average benzene concentrations were 41 times higher in samples collected within 500 feet of an oil and gas facility than in samples collected more than a mile away.”

Source: Think Progress

Date: June 2018

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