Tag Archives: #fracking pollution

30Jun/15
FrackTanks_LS_0915sm

Ozone: colorless, usually odorless, dangerous!

I receive text alerts whenever the Air Quality Index indicates there is smog/ pollution in my area. This text message arrived on my phone for 10 of the last 14 days plus 3 earlier days in June (June 8,9,10,17,18,20,22,23,25,27,28,29 and today, 30) “ Smog levels are UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS”. I get my alerts from the Sierra Club  but other sites can also send out this information.

Ozone is usually undetectable without monitoring. However, some people report a pungent odor and we all see the smog hanging around the mountains. For people with asthma, high ozone may trigger an attack. Those with other respiratory disorders such as COPD will also note increased difficulty breathing. I know that when the levels are high, I return from my walk with a rapid respiratory rate even if I am not walking rapidly.

The American Lung Association gave many counties in Colorado an F for air quality. (http://www.stateoftheair.org/2015/states/colorado/) Those counties with lots of fracking, such as Weld and those adjacent to fracking, such as Boulder, received an F. Denver, despite its heavy traffic, is slightly better,D so don’t believe the fossil fuel industry when they say this is due to automobiles, In fact studies have found that 55% of the ozone-precursor pollution in Erie, CO can be traced directly to oil and gas production.

Why is this important? According to Wikipedia: “Ozone is a powerful oxidant which causes ozone to damage mucous and respiratory tissues in animals, and also tissues in plants, above concentrations of about 100 ppb. This makes ozone a potent respiratory hazard and pollutant near ground level.”

This information is available from many sources, but Sierra Club states:
“Smog (ground-level ozone) is a dangerous air pollution that harms your family’s health. When we breathe smoggy air, it causes inflammation that has been compared to sunburn. Children whose lungs are still developing, senior citizens, and persons with asthma and other respiratory ailments are most at risk from smog pollution, but no one is safe outside on high ozone days. Even at low levels, smog is associated with low birth weight in newborns and premature death from a host of causes. Ozone triggers life-threatening asthma attacks, sending tens of thousands of children to emergency rooms each year.”

Ozone is created when Nitrous Oxide and VOC’s (volatile organic compounds), react with heat and sunlight. The formula is NOx+VOC+Heat+Sunlight= Ozone.

Physicians for Social Responsibility have a well-documented paper  describing the connection between the VOC’s released from fracking operations and ozone production. An excerpt from this paper:
“Fracking operations release VOCs “at each stage of production and delivery which then mix with nitrogen oxides from the exhaust of diesel-fueled trucks and equipment to form ozone. VOCs and ozone pollution have been detected at dangerous levels at fracking sites in Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah.
• One study in Northeastern Colorado found exceptionally high levels of VOCs in the air and traced the chemical signature of around 55% of them directly back to gas and oil operations.
• For parts of 2011, the level of ozone pollution in rural Wyoming’s gas drilling areas exceeded that of Los Angeles and other major cities. The peak, at 116 parts per billion, significantly exceeded the EPA’s healthy limit of 75 parts per billion.
• Uintah County, Utah, home to one of the highest-producing oil and gas fields in the country, has experienced dangerously high levels of VOCs and resultant ozone for over five years. The amount of VOCs released in 2013 in Uintah County alone was calculated as the equivalent of emissions from 100 million automobiles.”

In this paper, Physicians for Social Responsibility calls for a moratorium on fracking until adequate regulations and safeguards are in place to protect human health. We Coloradans and others who live in the gas patch are being slowly poisoned by fracking operations.
Coloradans Against Fracking will continue to work toward eliminating this dangerous, dirty industry from our state.