A new report from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment concludes that the risk of harmful health effects is low for Coloradans living near oil and gas operations. The report calls for more study, rather than immediate public health action.
Assessment of Potential Public Health Effects from Oil and Gas Extraction in Colorado examines the health risks from certain substances emitted from oil and gas operations and reviews other studies of health effects possibly associated with living near oil and gas operations. The Colorado Oil and Gas Task Force in 2015 recommended the study.
The health risk portion of the study combined more than 10,000 air quality samples to evaluate how 62 substances in those samples compare to an identified “safe” level for human exposure. Among its findings are:
- The concentrations of a small number of substances (benzene, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde) in the air surrounding oil and gas operations are four to five times lower than standard health limits set for short- and long-term exposure;
- The concentrations of the other substances are five to 10,000 times lower than the standard health limits set for short- and long-term exposure;
- Cancer risks for all substances are within the “acceptable risk” range established by U.S. EPA; and
- The risk of harmful health effects is low for residents living at distances 500 feet or more from oil and gas operations.