Drilling, fracking, and associated infrastructure cause significant and dangerous air pollution. Throughout the well pad construction, drilling, fracking, and production, many chemicals leak and are released into the air and travel into the homes, playgrounds, schools, medical facilities, and communities of nearby residents. For many years since fracking began in Pennsylvania, residents have voiced concerns and have reported changes in air quality and a range of symptoms that are associated with various of the chemicals used in the drilling and fracking process.
People living near drilling and fracking have to breathe in polluted air all the time, 24/7. Such chronic exposure presents serious risks to people’s well-being, especially at-risk people such as children, the elderly, and those with pre-existing conditions.
Areas in Pennsylvania and across the country where fracking has come in have seen precipitous declines in air quality. Among the many health impacts reported by nearby residents are serious respiratory issues, chronic nasal and sinus issues, eye irritation, and other effects commonly associated with air pollution. Studies have found high levels of air pollutants and associations with health impacts including increased risk of asthma.
Some recent studies and state data about air pollution from drilling and fracking include:
- State data released in 2016 showed that air pollution at gas drilling sites in Pennsylvania jumped from 2013 to 2014, despite a lull in the number of well sites reporting information. Sulfur oxide emissions jumped 40 percent. Carbon monoxide emissions jumped 19 percent. Nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, and others also increased. https://stateimpact.npr.org/pennsylvania/2016/08/17/air-pollutants-from-pa-oil-and-gas-sites-continue-to-rise/
- A 2016 Johns Hopkins University study of 35,000 medical records of people with asthma in north and central Pennsylvania, from 2005 to 2012, found that those who live near more or larger gas wells were 1.5 to 4 times more likely to suffer from asthma attacks than those who live farther away. https://stateimpact.npr.org/pennsylvania/2016/07/18/health-study-shows-connection-between-asthma-attacks-and-gas-drilling/
- Pennsylvania state data released in 2015 showed that sulfur oxide emissions jumped 57 percent from 2012 to 2013 at gas drilling sites. Sulfur dioxide contributes to acid rain, and causes respiratory problems including asthma. Volatile organic compounds jumped 19 percent, and nitrogen oxides jumped 8 percent, chemicals that can cause symptoms including eye, nose and throat irritations; and headaches, nausea and liver and kidney damage. https://stateimpact.npr.org/pennsylvania/2015/04/20/air-pollution-increases-at-pennsylvanias-natural-gas-sites/
- A 2015 University of Maryland study linked air pollutants from drilling and fracking to increased air pollution as far away as Maryland. http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/bal-study-links-air-pollution-in-baltimore-to-fracking-outside-maryland-20150430-story.html
Find many more studies about drilling and fracking and air pollution here.
In addition to the risks and harms from drilling and fracking, build out of associated infrastructure including pipelines and compressor stations poses serious impacts. Across Pennsylvania and the United States, many pipelines have leaked and exploded, harming people and the environment. Compressor stations emit dangerous pollutants, often in high concentrations, endangering those who live nearby.