Health Studies of the Oil and Gas Industry

On March 26, the government of British Columbia released the Northeast Oil and Gas Human Health Risk Assessment Studywhich includes a scientific literature review, a screening level risk assessment, a detailed human health risk assessment, a review of the current regulatory framework, and recommendations for future research and action. According to the Minister of Health, “After careful review and analysis, the study found that the risk to human health from emissions from oil and gas activities in the Northeast remains low”. The report did make 14 recommendations regarding: emergency planning; flaring, venting and fugitive emission management; hydraulic fracturing; information management; and environmental monitoring. All documentation from the study is available online.

 Of related interest, several recent U.S. studies: “Predictors of Indoor Radon Concentrations in Pennsylvania 1989-2013” appeared in Environmental Health Perspectives on April 9. Researchers from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health measured radon levels in U.S. homes near the Marcellus shale fields since fracking began in 2004 and found higher readings of radon, compared with homes in low-activity areas. Another study, Wasting Away: Four states’ failure to manage oil and gas waste in the Marcellus and Utica Shale, conducted by Earthworks, explored  state oversight of drilling in New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The article particularly focuses on the identification and handling of the potentially hazardous waste materials left behind after fracking. Finally, the Environmental Defense Fund in the U.S. has recently released the latest of 16 studies they commissioned/collaborated on regarding methane leaks in the oil and gas sector. 

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