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Abstract

Increasing reliance on natural gas for energy has resulted in expansion of the natural gas infrastructure, including pipelines and compressor stations to transport gas. Compressor stations emit numerous particulate and gaseous pollutants including volatile organic compounds (VOCs) but studies of human health in association with compressor stations are almost completely absent from the literature. The objective of the study was to test for associations between VOC emissions from compressor stations and adjusted mortality rates. We conducted a county-level ecological study, using VOC emission data from the 2017 National Emissions Inventory, 2017 age-adjusted total mortality per 100,000 population from CDC data, and covariates from the County Health Rankings data. Results of multiple linear regression models showed that total age-adjusted mortality, controlling for covariates (race/ethnicity, education, poverty, urbanicity, smoking and obesity rates), was significantly higher in association with greater non-methane VOC emissions from compressor stations. Twelve individual VOCs were also associated with significantly higher adjusted mortality. Results provide preliminary evidence that compressor stations along natural gas pipelines are sources of pollutant exposures that may contribute to adverse human health outcomes.

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... However, there is limited information about exposure to air contaminants and resulting health effects in residents living near natural gas compressor stations. One recent ecological study evaluated county-level VOC emissions data across the US and identified that higher levels of total VOCs were reported around compressor stations (Hendryx and Luo, 2020). The emissions were also associated with greater age-adjusted mortality rates (Hendryx and Luo, 2020). ...
... One recent ecological study evaluated county-level VOC emissions data across the US and identified that higher levels of total VOCs were reported around compressor stations (Hendryx and Luo, 2020). The emissions were also associated with greater age-adjusted mortality rates (Hendryx and Luo, 2020). A study in New York identified compressor stations as posing a significant public health risk due to toxic air emissions including VOCs (Russo and Carpenter, 2019). ...
... Health effects associated with exposure include cataracts, retinal damage, headache, nausea, gastrointestinal issues, and fatigue (US EPA 2020). Using county-level data, a recent study described associations between mortality rates and VOC emissions from compressor stations (Hendryx and Luo, 2020). While it is known that compressor stations emit VOCs and the literature is clear on the serious dangers associated with the inhalation of elevated VOC levels, the emission profiles of SVOCs and the human health impacts associated with these exposures from compressor stations is limited. ...
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Introduction Natural gas compressor stations are located throughout the country and are used to maintain gas flow and ensure continuous distribution through the pipeline network. Compressor stations emit many air contaminants including volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs). While the serious health effects associated with the inhalation of elevated pollutant levels are clear, the relationship between proximity to natural gas compressor stations and residential health effects is not well understood. Community members living near a natural gas compressor station in Eastern Ohio expressed concerns regarding their air quality; therefore, the objective of this study was to assess exposure to airborne organics in residential air near the compressor station. Methods Our team conducted a 24-hour air sampling campaign to assess outdoor and indoor air contaminant levels at 4 homes near the Williams Salem Compressor Station in Jefferson County, Ohio. Air quality was assessed using two techniques: 1) summa canisters to quantify VOC concentrations and 2) passive air samplers to evaluate a broader panel of VOCs and SVOCs. Results Among the three homes situated < 2 km from the compressor station, indoor benzene levels were 2-17 times greater than the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indoor standard due to vapor intrusion. Multiple other VOCs, including ethylbenzene, 1,2,4-trimethylbenzene, 1,2 dichloroethane, 1,3 butadiene, chloroform, and naphthalene also exceeded state standards for indoor concentrations. Several SVOCs were also detected inside and outside participants’ homes, including benzene and naphthalene derivatives. Conclusion Our results validate the community members’ concerns and necessitate a more comprehensive epidemiological investigation into the exposures associated with natural gas compressor stations and methods to mitigate elevated exposures. Alarming levels of VOCS were detected inside of homes. Further research is needed to determine the source of VOC exposure and potential health effects.
... It does not include any health impacts of direct ozone or NO 2 exposure, morbidity impacts related to PM 2.5 , ozone, or NO 2 like respiratory hospitalizations and birth outcomes, or localized health impacts from hazardous air pollution emissions from fuel extraction processes or combustion [4,[20][21][22][23][24][25][26][27][28]. It does not include impacts to climate change, including methane leaks across the gas supply and distribution chain [29][30][31][32][33], or carbon cycling with biomass [34][35][36][37]. Furthermore, it does not include health impacts of indoor exposures, including unvented gas combustion from cooking, indoor gas leaks, or indoor exposure to wood smoke [33,38]. ...
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Chapter
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Studies of unconventional natural gas development (UNGD) and health have ranked participants along a gradient of geographic information system (GIS)-based activity that incorporated distance between participants’ home addresses and unconventional natural gas wells. However, studies have used different activity metrics, making results comparisons across studies difficult. Existing studies have only incorporated wells, without accounting for other components of development (e.g., compressors, impoundments, flaring events), for which it is often difficult to obtain reliable data, but may have relevance to health. Our aims were to: (1) describe, in space and time, UNGD-related compressors, impoundments, and flaring events; (2) evaluate whether and how to incorporate these into UNGD activity assessment; (3) evaluate associations of these different approaches with mild asthma exacerbations. We identified 361 compressor stations, 1,218 impoundments, and 216 locations with flaring events. A principal component analysis identified a single component that was approximately an equal mix of the metrics for compressors, impoundments, and four phases of well development (pad preparation, drilling, stimulation, and production). However, temporal coverage for impoundments and flaring data was sparse. Ultimately, we evaluated three UNGD activity metrics, including two based on existing studies and a novel metric that included well pad development, drilling, stimulation, production and compressor engine aspects of UNGD. The three metrics had varying magnitudes of association with mild asthma exacerbations, although the highest category of each metric (vs. the lowest) was associated with the outcome.
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Exposure to ambient volatile organic compound (VOCs) in urban areas is of interest because of their potential chronic and acute adverse effects to public health. Limited information is available about VOC sources in urban areas in Canada. An investigation of ambient VOCs levels, their potential sources and associated risks to public health was undertaken for the urban core of Alberta's largest city (downtown Calgary) for the period 2010-2015. Twenty-four hour arithmetic and geometric mean concentrations of total VOCs were 42μg/m3and 39μg/m3, respectively and ranged from 16 to 160μg/m3, with winter levels about two-fold higher than summer. Alkanes (58%) were the most dominant compounds followed by halogenated VOCs (22%) and aromatics (11%). Mean and maximum 24h ambient concentrations of selected VOCs of public health concern were below chronic and acute health risk screening criteria of the United States regulatory agencies and a cancer screening benchmark used in Alberta equivalent to 1 in 100,000 lifetime risk. The Positive matrix factorization (PMF) model revealed nine VOC sources at downtown Calgary, where oil/natural gas extraction/combustion (26%), fuel combustion (20%), traffic sources including gasoline exhaust, diesel exhaust, mixed fugitive emissions (10-15%), and industrial coatings/solvents (12%) were predominant. Other sources included dry cleaning (3.3%), biogenic (3.5%) and a background source (18%). Source-specific health risk values were also estimated. Estimated cancer risks for all sources were below the Alberta cancer screening benchmark, and estimated non-cancer risks for all sources were well below a safe level.
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This systematic review identified 45 original published research articles related to oil and gas extraction activities and human reproductive endpoints. Reproductive outcomes were categorized as [1] birth outcomes associated with maternal exposure, [2] semen quality, fertility, and birth outcomes associated with adult paternal exposure, [3] reproductive cancers, and [4] disruption of human sex steroid hormone receptors. The results indicate there is moderate evidence for an increased risk of preterm birth, miscarriage, birth defects, decreased semen quality, and prostate cancer. The quality of the evidence is low and/or inadequate for stillbirth, sex ratio, and birth outcomes associated with paternal exposure, and testicular cancer, female reproductive tract cancers, and breast cancer, and the evidence is inconsistent for an increased risk of low birth weight; therefore, no conclusions can be drawn for these health effects. There is ample evidence for disruption of the estrogen, androgen, and progesterone receptors by oil and gas chemicals, which provides a mech-anistic rationale for how exposure to oil and gas activities may increase the health risks we have outlined. The results from this systematic review suggest there is a negative impact on human reproduction from exposure to oil and gas activities. Many of the 45 studies reviewed identified potential human health effects. Most of these studies focused on conventional oil and gas activities. Few studies have been conducted to evaluate the impact of unconventional oil and gas operations on human health. The impact of uncon-ventional oil and gas activities may be greater than that of conventional activity, given that unconventional activities employ many of the same approaches and use dozens of known endocrine-disrupting chemicals in hydraulic fracturing. (Fertil Steril Ò 2016;-:-–- .
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Importance: Asthma is common and can be exacerbated by air pollution and stress. Unconventional natural gas development (UNGD) has community and environmental impacts. In Pennsylvania, UNGD began in 2005, and by 2012, 6253 wells had been drilled. There are no prior studies of UNGD and objective respiratory outcomes. Objective: To evaluate associations between UNGD and asthma exacerbations. Design: A nested case-control study comparing patients with asthma with and without exacerbations from 2005 through 2012 treated at the Geisinger Clinic, which provides primary care services to over 400 000 patients in Pennsylvania. Patients with asthma aged 5 to 90 years (n = 35 508) were identified in electronic health records; those with exacerbations were frequency matched on age, sex, and year of event to those without. Exposures: On the day before each patient's index date (cases, date of event or medication order; controls, contact date), we estimated activity metrics for 4 UNGD phases (pad preparation, drilling, stimulation [hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking"], and production) using distance from the patient's home to the well, well characteristics, and the dates and durations of phases. Main outcomes and measures: We identified and defined asthma exacerbations as mild (new oral corticosteroid medication order), moderate (emergency department encounter), or severe (hospitalization). Results: We identified 20 749 mild, 1870 moderate, and 4782 severe asthma exacerbations, and frequency matched these to 18 693, 9350, and 14 104 control index dates, respectively. In 3-level adjusted models, there was an association between the highest group of the activity metric for each UNGD phase compared with the lowest group for 11 of 12 UNGD-outcome pairs: odds ratios (ORs) ranged from 1.5 (95% CI, 1.2-1.7) for the association of the pad metric with severe exacerbations to 4.4 (95% CI, 3.8-5.2) for the association of the production metric with mild exacerbations. Six of the 12 UNGD-outcome associations had increasing ORs across quartiles. Our findings were robust to increasing levels of covariate control and in sensitivity analyses that included evaluation of some possible sources of unmeasured confounding. Conclusions and relevance: Residential UNGD activity metrics were statistically associated with increased risk of mild, moderate, and severe asthma exacerbations. Whether these associations are causal awaits further investigation, including more detailed exposure assessment.
Article
Objectives: This study was conducted to describe the health concerns of residents of an unconventional oil and natural gas development (UOGD) community and identify methods to best disseminate health information to the residents. Design and sample: A qualitative descriptive study of 27 residents of Wyoming County, Pennsylvania, was conducted. Results: Residents described their health concerns in terms of their changing community as a result of UOGD, their feelings of stress and powerlessness related to these changes, and the limited response of their local policymakers and protective agencies. There were indications of misinformation related to routine environmental health and UOGD environmental risks. Web-based educational programs with downloadable printed materials to bridge the knowledge gaps of residents and health professionals are recommended. Conclusions: Recommendations include public health nurses providing education to communities and other health professionals regarding environmental health risks, working with communities to advocate for health-protective regulations, and adopting a community-based participatory approach to meet the needs of community members.
Article
Introduction: Concerns for health and social impacts have arisen as a result of Marcellus Shale unconventional natural gas development. Our goal was to document the self-reported health impacts and mental and physical health stressors perceived to result from Marcellus Shale development. Methods: Two sets of interviews were conducted with a convenience sample of community members living proximal to Marcellus Shale development, session 1 March-September 2010 (n = 33) and session 2 January-April 2012 (n = 20). Symptoms of health impacts and sources of psychological stress were coded. Symptom and stressor counts were quantified for each interview. The counts for each participant were compared longitudinally. Results: Participants attributed 59 unique health impacts and 13 stressors to Marcellus Shale development. Stress was the most frequently-reported symptom. Over time, perceived health impacts increased (P = 0·042), while stressors remained constant (P = 0·855). Discussion: Exposure-based epidemiological studies are needed to address identified health impacts and those that may develop as unconventional natural gas extraction continues. Many of the stressors can be addressed immediately.
Article
Combustion processes have inherent characteristics that lead to the release in the environment of both gaseous and particulate pollutants that have primary and secondary impacts on air quality, human health, and climate. The emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels and biofuels and their atmospheric impacts are reviewed here with attention given to the emissions of the currently regulated pollutant gasses, primary aerosols, and secondary aerosol precursors as well as the emissions of non-regulated pollutants. Fuels ranging from coal, petroleum, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), natural gas, as well as the biofuels; ethanol, methanol, methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE), ethyl tertiary-butyl ether (ETBE), and biodiesel, are discussed in terms of the known air quality and climate impacts of the currently regulated pollutants. The potential importance of the non-regulated emissions of both gasses and aerosols in air quality issues and climate is also discussed with principal focus on aldehydes and other oxygenated organics, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and nitrated organics. The connection between air quality and climate change is also addressed with attention given to ozone and aerosols as potentially important greenhouse species.
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