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Air concentrations of volatile compounds near oil and gas production: a community-based exploratory study.

Macey GP, Breech R, Chernaik M, Cox C, Larson D, Thomas D, Carpenter DO - Environ Health (2014)

Bottom Line: Benzene, formaldehyde, and hydrogen sulfide were the most common compounds to exceed acute and other health-based risk levels.Air concentrations of potentially dangerous compounds and chemical mixtures are frequently present near oil and gas production sites.Community-based research can provide an important supplement to state air quality monitoring programs.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Institute for Health and the Environment, University at Albany, Rensselaer, New York, USA. dcarpenter@albany.edu.

ABSTRACT

Background: Horizontal drilling, hydraulic fracturing, and other drilling and well stimulation technologies are now used widely in the United States and increasingly in other countries. They enable increases in oil and gas production, but there has been inadequate attention to human health impacts. Air quality near oil and gas operations is an underexplored human health concern for five reasons: (1) prior focus on threats to water quality; (2) an evolving understanding of contributions of certain oil and gas production processes to air quality; (3) limited state air quality monitoring networks; (4) significant variability in air emissions and concentrations; and (5) air quality research that misses impacts important to residents. Preliminary research suggests that volatile compounds, including hazardous air pollutants, are of potential concern. This study differs from prior research in its use of a community-based process to identify sampling locations. Through this approach, we determine concentrations of volatile compounds in air near operations that reflect community concerns and point to the need for more fine-grained and frequent monitoring at points along the production life cycle.

Methods: Grab and passive air samples were collected by trained volunteers at locations identified through systematic observation of industrial operations and air impacts over the course of resident daily routines. A total of 75 volatile organics were measured using EPA Method TO-15 or TO-3 by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. Formaldehyde levels were determined using UMEx 100 Passive Samplers.

Results: Levels of eight volatile chemicals exceeded federal guidelines under several operational circumstances. Benzene, formaldehyde, and hydrogen sulfide were the most common compounds to exceed acute and other health-based risk levels.

Conclusions: Air concentrations of potentially dangerous compounds and chemical mixtures are frequently present near oil and gas production sites. Community-based research can provide an important supplement to state air quality monitoring programs.

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Design of bucket grab sampling device.
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Related In: Results  -  Collection

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Fig1: Design of bucket grab sampling device.

Mentions: Sampling for volatile compounds other than formaldehyde was carried out using methods described in O’Rourke and Macey [48] and Larson et al. [49] using an evacuated sampling (“bucket”) vessel modelled after the Summa canister [50]. The bucket is inexpensive, portable, and consists of a 10-liter Tedlar bag and vacuum to take a grab sample of air for two to three minutes (Figure 1). Air is collected using a battery-operated pump that forces air out of the bucket. Negative pressure created inside the sealed bucket by the external vacuum pump opens the bag when a stainless steel bulkhead is opened. After taking the sample, the Tedlar bag is sealed and sent to an analytical laboratory. The bucket sampler operates on the same principle that Summa canisters employ. Rather than collect a sample in a stainless steel can, the bucket contains a special bag made of Tedlar to hold the sample. Bags are obtained from the laboratory that processes the sample and purged three times with pure nitrogen by the laboratory prior to use. GCM’s founder developed the sampling program under a project for Communities for a Better Environment, a non-profit organization founded in 1978 that provides legal, scientific, and technical assistance to heavily polluted communities. The device has been subjected to numerous validation tests organized by government agencies and independent laboratories [51–54]. Refinements include the use of field duplicates, which demonstrate no significant variation in results across comparison studies [45].Figure 1


Air concentrations of volatile compounds near oil and gas production: a community-based exploratory study.

Macey GP, Breech R, Chernaik M, Cox C, Larson D, Thomas D, Carpenter DO - Environ Health (2014)

Design of bucket grab sampling device.
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License 1 - License 2
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4216869&req=5

Fig1: Design of bucket grab sampling device.
Mentions: Sampling for volatile compounds other than formaldehyde was carried out using methods described in O’Rourke and Macey [48] and Larson et al. [49] using an evacuated sampling (“bucket”) vessel modelled after the Summa canister [50]. The bucket is inexpensive, portable, and consists of a 10-liter Tedlar bag and vacuum to take a grab sample of air for two to three minutes (Figure 1). Air is collected using a battery-operated pump that forces air out of the bucket. Negative pressure created inside the sealed bucket by the external vacuum pump opens the bag when a stainless steel bulkhead is opened. After taking the sample, the Tedlar bag is sealed and sent to an analytical laboratory. The bucket sampler operates on the same principle that Summa canisters employ. Rather than collect a sample in a stainless steel can, the bucket contains a special bag made of Tedlar to hold the sample. Bags are obtained from the laboratory that processes the sample and purged three times with pure nitrogen by the laboratory prior to use. GCM’s founder developed the sampling program under a project for Communities for a Better Environment, a non-profit organization founded in 1978 that provides legal, scientific, and technical assistance to heavily polluted communities. The device has been subjected to numerous validation tests organized by government agencies and independent laboratories [51–54]. Refinements include the use of field duplicates, which demonstrate no significant variation in results across comparison studies [45].Figure 1

Bottom Line: Benzene, formaldehyde, and hydrogen sulfide were the most common compounds to exceed acute and other health-based risk levels.Air concentrations of potentially dangerous compounds and chemical mixtures are frequently present near oil and gas production sites.Community-based research can provide an important supplement to state air quality monitoring programs.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Institute for Health and the Environment, University at Albany, Rensselaer, New York, USA. dcarpenter@albany.edu.

ABSTRACT

Background: Horizontal drilling, hydraulic fracturing, and other drilling and well stimulation technologies are now used widely in the United States and increasingly in other countries. They enable increases in oil and gas production, but there has been inadequate attention to human health impacts. Air quality near oil and gas operations is an underexplored human health concern for five reasons: (1) prior focus on threats to water quality; (2) an evolving understanding of contributions of certain oil and gas production processes to air quality; (3) limited state air quality monitoring networks; (4) significant variability in air emissions and concentrations; and (5) air quality research that misses impacts important to residents. Preliminary research suggests that volatile compounds, including hazardous air pollutants, are of potential concern. This study differs from prior research in its use of a community-based process to identify sampling locations. Through this approach, we determine concentrations of volatile compounds in air near operations that reflect community concerns and point to the need for more fine-grained and frequent monitoring at points along the production life cycle.

Methods: Grab and passive air samples were collected by trained volunteers at locations identified through systematic observation of industrial operations and air impacts over the course of resident daily routines. A total of 75 volatile organics were measured using EPA Method TO-15 or TO-3 by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. Formaldehyde levels were determined using UMEx 100 Passive Samplers.

Results: Levels of eight volatile chemicals exceeded federal guidelines under several operational circumstances. Benzene, formaldehyde, and hydrogen sulfide were the most common compounds to exceed acute and other health-based risk levels.

Conclusions: Air concentrations of potentially dangerous compounds and chemical mixtures are frequently present near oil and gas production sites. Community-based research can provide an important supplement to state air quality monitoring programs.

Show MeSH