Air pollution high around oil and gas wells in USA

HIGH levels of air pollution around shale oil and gas production in the Unites States has received a mixed reaction from Australian experts.

The report, published yesterday in the Environmental Health journal, found high levels of benzene, hydrogen sulfide and formaldehyde pollution around unconventional oil and gas wells in the USA.

However, University of Queensland professor Andrew Garnett said American shale gas is different from Australian coal seams.

"Those operations and the gases and emissions concerned are not analogous to Queensland, CSG operations," he said.

"In particular, the report describes emissions from relatively "liquids rich" gas operations with significantly different composition than that typically found in Queensland CSG."

He said the typical American gas referred to in the paper contained up to 17% ethane, propane and butane, which was absent in typical Australian CSG.

However, University of NSW Associate Professor Melissa Haswell-Elkins, a member of Doctors for the Environment Australia, said the report should be kept in mind when looking at CSG's impact on communities.

"This new report comes as no surprise to environmental health experts in Australia who have been in touch with the mounting research evidence on health risks from unconventional gas mining that is emerging from increasingly sophisticated public health studies conducted in the United States," she said.

"A limited study conducted by Queensland Health in 2013, using mainly routinely collected information, attracted few participants and no evidence of a connection between coal seam gas operations and ill health in Tara, Queensland where many families live very close to coal seam gas wells.

"In contrast, a local GP well known to the Tara community, Dr Geralyn McCarron, conducted a survey of 38 households, comprising 113 residents, documenting numerous self-reports of respiratory, skin, gastrointestinal illnesses, as well as dizziness, nosebleeds and eye irritation.

"Symptoms potentially related to neurotoxic exposures included fatigue, headaches, numbness and paraesthesia (feelings of tingling, burning, or pins and needles)."

- APN NEWSDESK


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