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Chemicals in Oil and Gas Operations

Natural Gas Operations from a Public Health Perspective

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Natural Gas Operations from a Public Health Perspective

In September, 2011, Natural Gas Operations from a Public Health Perspective was published in Human and Ecological Risk Assessment: an International Journal (peer-reviewed).


The technology to recover natural gas depends on undisclosed types and amounts of toxic chemicals. A list of 944 products containing 632 chemicals used during natural gas operations was compiled. Literature searches were conducted to determine potential health effects of the 353 chemicals identified by Chemical Abstract Service (CAS) numbers. More than 75% of the chemicals could affect the skin, eyes, and other sensory organs, and the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems. Approximately 40-50% could affect the brain/nervous system, immune and cardiovascular systems, and the kidneys; 37% could affect the endocrine system; and 25% could cause cancer and mutations. These results indicate that many chemicals used during the fracturing and drilling stages of gas operations may have long-term health effects that are not immediately expressed. In addition, an example was provided of waste evaporation pit residuals that contained numerous chemicals on the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA) lists of hazardous substances. The discussion highlights the difficulty of developing effective water quality monitoring programs. To protect public health we recommend full disclosure of the contents of all products, extensive air and water monitoring, coordinated environmental/human health studies, and regulation of fracturing under the U.S. Safe Drinking Water Act.  


Colborn T, Kwiatkowski C, Schultz K, and Bachran M. 2011. Natural gas operations from a public health perspective. Hum Ecol Risk Assess, 17(5):1039-56.


In November, 2012, An Exploratory Study of Air Quality near Natural Gas Operations was accepted for publication by Human and Ecological Risk Assessment: An International Journal. Click here to view.

In April, 2014, Physicians Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy (PSE) implemented a Continuing Medical Education (CME) course that was presented by Dr. Theo Colborn, titled Natural Gas Operations, Air Emission Exposure, and Recommendations to the Healthcare Community.

In April, 2014, Dr. Carol Kwiatkowski spoke about the public health implications of NGD, with an emphasis on air pollution and the risks they might hold for vulnerable populations, including children and pregnant women in a webinar presented by the Center for Environmental Health (CEH). The presentation, Natural Gas Development, Public Health and Protecting the Most Vulnerable Populations can be viewed here.