Chemicals from gas wells were discovered in biological samples drawn from residents of Pavillion, Wyoming, at levels as much as ten times the national averages, according to a new report. The study is the first to sample both the air near drilling sites and the levels of chemicals in people living and working near those wells, allowing researchers to study the ways that toxic air pollutants are entering people’s bodies near gas wells and putting their health at risk.
The researchers found evidence of 16 potentially dangerous chemicals in 11 individuals who volunteered to participate in the study by wearing air monitors and providing blood and urine samples. They found benzene, toluene, 2-heptanone, 4 heptanone and evidence of roughly a dozen other substances — including some known to be quite dangerous and others for which little safety information is available.
Wilma Subra, a chemist and microbiologist who has spent three decades researching the impacts of toxic chemicals, and who participated in the new report, told DeSmog that there was reason to be concerned about the health of the people included in the study, saying that they found chemicals “above acceptable levels in many cases.”
The health concerns would be about the same in many gas fields across the U.S., she said. “It is very similar to other areas where shale has been developed,” she added, “but also to areas where conventional drilling has taken place over the years.”
Pavillion is perhaps best-known nationwide for its battles over water contamination and fracking, which began in roughly 2008 when locals first reported that their water tasted different and carried strange odors. The Environmental Protection Agency launched a study, then dropped it, leaving the investigation to state regulators who have yet to reach any final conclusions.