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CSU Report Quantifies Health Risks of Oil, Gas Pollution

Oil and gas sector pollution is responsible for more than 750,000 asthma attacks annually in U.S. children. (Pixabay)
Oil and gas sector pollution is responsible for more than 750,000 asthma attacks annually in U.S. children. (Pixabay)
September 1, 2016

DENVER -- Analysis by researchers at Colorado State University found oil and gas sector pollution is responsible for more than 750,000 asthma attacks annually in U.S. children under age 18. The study, commissioned by The Clean Air Task Force, is the first of its kind to quantify health impacts of ground-level ozone produced by the industry.

According to Hilda Nucete, organizing program director with the conservation group Protégete: Our Air our Health, ozone causes kids to miss almost 15,000 school days each year in Denver alone.

"So, we know that methane leaks from oil and gas facilities are directly increasing ozone smog levels,” Nucete said, "meaning we are creating worse air quality for our kids to breathe and that is increasing those asthma attacks in our communities."

The study said oil and gas production releases more than 9 million tons of methane and other pollution annually, and is currently the largest source of methane emissions in the U.S.

According to researchers, methane - the primary component of natural gas - is 87 times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere.

Janice Nolen, assistant vice president for national policy at the American Lung Association, said hotter summers are intensifying ozone levels, creating dangerous air conditions - especially for kids playing outdoors.

“Children - whose lungs continue to develop after they're born, and develop until they are teenagers or young adults - their lungs can be shaped by the amount of ozone pollution that they're breathing,” Nolan said. "They can, in fact, have their lungs function less well. So, that puts them at risk for lung diseases as they get older."

In June, the Environmental Protection Agency finalized methane standards for new oil and gas production, but Nolen said the rules don't apply to over a million existing facilities. The agency has committed to issuing guidelines for existing sites with the highest ozone levels in the near future.

People can access local data from the report through an interactive map at OilAndGasThreatMap.com.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO