Methane and Your Health

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The leaks coming from the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania are a constant health hazard for residents of our state. The air pollutants that leak have serious and even fatal consequences. Below are some of the health effects associated with the variety of gases, VOCs and air toxics released from oil and gas operations in Pennsylvania:

  • Headaches, eye irritation, and coughing are common symptoms resulting from short-term acute exposure to air toxics.

  • Damage to the liver, kidney, the central nervous system, and possibly cancer can be caused by chronic exposure.

  • Aggravated bronchitis and emphysema, increased frequency of asthma attacks, long-term damage to the lungs, heart failure, and premature mortality can be caused by ozone smog.

In addition, recent health studies have revealed several alarming associations for residents of the Commonwealth who live near oil and gas facilities.

  • Lower birth weight and higher incidence of small-for-gestational-age children were shown to live near fracking sites in Pennsylvania according to a University of Pittsburgh study.

  • High-risk pregnancies were up 30 percent and preterm births increased by 40 percent among pregnant women living near Pennsylvania’s fracking sites in a Johns Hopkins study.

  • New prescriptions, hospitalizations, and emergency room visits were 50-400 percent more common in Pennsylvania asthma patients living closer to areas with more or bigger active fracking wells than among those living far away.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection estimates that in 2014, 6,389 tons of VOCs were emitted from natural gas operations. That’s up from 4,790 tons in 2013. Studies in other states have found that official estimates may be 2 to 7 times lower than actual emissions. With the projected increase of natural gas development, ozone levels will rise. Air pollution leaks are widespread in natural gas development. These leaks threaten public health and the environment. New standards for natural gas air pollution could cut VOCs by as much as 22%. This change will save lives and improve the health of Pennsylvanians throughout the Commonwealth.


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