New study finds toxic air pollution in Ohio’s most heavily fracked county

Carroll County: location of study. Click to enlarge.

Carroll County: location of study. Click to enlarge.

(Editor’s note 7/16/2016: This study has been withdrawn.) A peer-reviewed study published by scientists from Oregon State University and the University of Cincinnati in the journal Environmental Science & Technology reveals that emissions generated by fracking operations may be exposing people to toxic pollutants at levels many times higher than the EPA considers safe for lifetime exposure. 

The researchers analyzed air samples from Carroll County, which has more permitted oil and gas wells (480) than any other Ohio county. They found that hydraulic fracturing emits pollutants known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), some of which are linked to increased risk of cancer and repiratory ailments.

Based on their data, the researchers calculated the cancer risk from airborne contaminants. For the worst-case scenario, exposure 24 hours a day over 25 years, they found that people living anywhere in the study area would be exposed to toxic pollutants at levels exceeding the threshold that the EPA considers safe.

Air sampler used in the study

Air sampler used in the study

The study was initiated after local residents contacted Erin Haynes, a public health expert at the University of Cincinnati, wanting to know about the health risks posed by the gas wells near them. The research involved citizen volunteers, who collected the air samples.

The analysis found the highest levels of PAHs nearest to the wells and decreased with distance. However, even at the lowest levels, which were detected at sites more than a mile away from a well, the samples revealed higher levels of PAHs than previous research had found in downtown Chicago or near a Belgian oil refinery. The lowest levels found in the study were about 10 times higher than in a rural Michigan area with no gas wells.

For those seeking a “smoking gun” that links fracking to these air pollution and health risks, keep in mind that this study doesn’t definitely show that fracking is the cause of the toxic air measured in Ohio. But, added to the other compelling evidence of the health risks of oil and gas drilling, it is reason to build regulatory precautions that will protect citizens from harm.

A database of 47 peer reviewed studies on the impact of oil and gas drilling on air quality
A compilation of studies on the impact of oil and gas drilling on air pollution from the Concerned Health Professionals of New York (see page 11)
A personal story of how drilling impacted the life of a Carroll Country, Ohio resident: A personal story: Kip Gardner, Carroll County, Ohio
Another example of the use of volunteer data collection to determine the health risks of oil and gas drilling: More new evidence of public health risk at drilling sites all over the United States
The precautionary principle and the science behind the New York fracking ban, a look at why studies like the one in Carroll County, Ohio are reason enough to stop or slow down fracking until we can clearly determine the dangers of oil and gas drilling

About davidjkatz

The Moses family has lived on the Stillwater River since 1974, when George and Lucile Moses retired and moved to the Beehive from the Twin Cities. They’re gone now, but their four daughters (pictured at left, on the Beehive) and their families continue to spend time there, and have grown to love the area. This blog started as an email chain to keep the family informed about the threat of increased fracking activity in the area, but the desire to inform and get involved led to the creation of this blog.
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3 Responses to New study finds toxic air pollution in Ohio’s most heavily fracked county

  1. Dennis Hoyem says:

    Yet another great blog post, David. There should be no surprises here regarding air quality damage, but I’m grateful that it’s scientifically documented now. Also, your link in this blog reminded me to read again the telling earlier blog regarding Congress’ inactivity regarding needed fracking legislation. That makes one wonder who is the greatest conspiritor here–the oil companies driven apparently exclusively by profit motive or the flagrant benign neglect of the legistlators (at all levels). Both greedy entities seem eager to convert tomorrow’s potentially more acceptable resource extraction and commensurate extraction techniques into cash today. The worth of the “pieces of silver” coveted and received today will pale in comparison to the resource damage it’s causing. Too bad justice, honor, integrity and equity have no cash value.

  2. davidjkatz says:

    Thanks Dennis. The most troubling thing to me is that nobody is looking after the rights of individuals impacted by drilling — not Congress, not state legislatures, not the EPA or the BLM, or state boards of oil and gas. It is up to local communities to protect themselves.

  3. Pingback: Fractivist Echo Chamber Implodes

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