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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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Related in: MedlinePlus

Concentrations of volatile compounds exceeding health-based risk levels in samples collected in Pennsylvania. Dashed line represents EPA IRIS 1/10,000 cancer risk for formaldehyde. Dotted line represents EPA IRIS 1/100,000 cancer risk for benzene.
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Fig4: Concentrations of volatile compounds exceeding health-based risk levels in samples collected in Pennsylvania. Dashed line represents EPA IRIS 1/10,000 cancer risk for formaldehyde. Dotted line represents EPA IRIS 1/100,000 cancer risk for benzene.

Mentions: Sixteen of the 35 grab samples, and 14 of the 41 passive samples, had concentrations of volatiles that exceeded ATSDR and/or EPA IRIS levels. ATSDR MRLs and EPA IRIS levels for chemicals of concern are provided in Table 2. The chemicals that most commonly exceeded these levels were hydrogen sulfide, formaldehyde, and benzene. Background levels for these chemicals are 0.15 μg/m3 for hydrogen sulfide, 0.25 μg/m3 for formaldehyde, and 0.15 μg/m3 for benzene [58–60]. Our samples that exceeded health-based risk levels were 90–66,000× background levels for hydrogen sulfide, 30-240× background levels for formaldehyde, and 35–770,000× background levels for benzene. Details of our results are presented in Tables 3, 4, and 5 and in Figures 2, 3, and 4 (greater detail is provided in Additional file 1). A state-by-state summary follows.Table 3


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)

Concentrations of volatile compounds exceeding health-based risk levels in samples collected in Pennsylvania. Dashed line represents EPA IRIS 1/10,000 cancer risk for formaldehyde. Dotted line represents EPA IRIS 1/100,000 cancer risk for benzene.
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

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

Fig4: Concentrations of volatile compounds exceeding health-based risk levels in samples collected in Pennsylvania. Dashed line represents EPA IRIS 1/10,000 cancer risk for formaldehyde. Dotted line represents EPA IRIS 1/100,000 cancer risk for benzene.
Mentions: Sixteen of the 35 grab samples, and 14 of the 41 passive samples, had concentrations of volatiles that exceeded ATSDR and/or EPA IRIS levels. ATSDR MRLs and EPA IRIS levels for chemicals of concern are provided in Table 2. The chemicals that most commonly exceeded these levels were hydrogen sulfide, formaldehyde, and benzene. Background levels for these chemicals are 0.15 μg/m3 for hydrogen sulfide, 0.25 μg/m3 for formaldehyde, and 0.15 μg/m3 for benzene [58–60]. Our samples that exceeded health-based risk levels were 90–66,000× background levels for hydrogen sulfide, 30-240× background levels for formaldehyde, and 35–770,000× background levels for benzene. Details of our results are presented in Tables 3, 4, and 5 and in Figures 2, 3, and 4 (greater detail is provided in Additional file 1). A state-by-state summary follows.Table 3

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
Related in: MedlinePlus