Air Toxics

Methane is just one harmful air pollutant from the oil and gas industry.

Clean Air Task Force’s new report, Fossil Fumes: A public health analysis of toxic air pollution from the oil and gas industry sheds light on the health impacts pollutants that are often emitted from oil and gas sites alongside methane, including benzene, formaldehyde, and ethylbenzene.

Fossil Fumes estimates cancer risk and respiratory health risk to residents of every county in the United States that can be traced back to air toxics from the oil and gas industry. It is based on EPA’s most recent National Air Toxics Assessment (NATA) analysis updated to reflect the latest emissions data from EPA’s National Emissions Inventory.

The Findings

  • 238 counties in 21 states face cancer risk that exceeds EPA’s one-in-a-million threshold level of concern due to emissions from oil and gas facilities;
  • These counties have a population of over 9 million people;
  • 32 counties also face a respiratory health risk from toxic air emissions that exceeds EPA’s level of concern; and
  • The areas with the greatest health risk are generally located in states with the greatest amount of oil and gas infrastructure including Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Colorado.

Hazardous Oil and Gas Air Pollutants

Hazardous Air Pollutant Tons Emitted Per Year from Oil and Gas Industry Health Impacts
Formaldehyde 22,082 Cancer and respiratory symptoms
Benzene 20,221 Cancer, anemia, brain damage and birth defects, and respiratory tract irritation
Acetaldehyde 3,863 Cancer and respiratory irritant
Ethyl Benzene 2,235 Respiratory and eye irritation, and blood and neurological disorders

An Underestimate

Fossil Fumes, based on the NATA assessment, only takes into account the health impacts related to toxic air pollution from the oil and gas industry. It doesn’t include the health impacts from particulate matter (e.g. soot) and ozone-related (e.g. smog) air emissions. This means NATA and Fossil Fumes underestimate of the full health impact of air pollution from oil and gas operations.

For the full report, visit the Clean Air Task Force website.