Pennsylvania is one of the states in the U.S. that has benefited from the resurgence of oil and natural gas production. But as is sometimes the case, the development of natural resources, particularly fossil fuels, can be a mixed blessing, especially for the workers at oil and natural gas fields.
According to a recently-completed study that examined air quality at oil and gas fields in five states, including Pennsylvania, the air that the workers breathe at four in every 10 of these locations has potentially hazardous levels of a number of chemicals, including but not limited to formaldehyde and benzene.
In the Pennsylvania context, the effects of such chemicals in the air have been experienced not only by workers onsite but also by others who live and work up to two-thirds of a mile away from the production locations.
These effects can include respiratory problems, headaches, and skin rashes. One site in particular recorded high levels of formaldehyde, which the World Health Organization has classified as a carcinogen.
Complaints to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection by people living near these sites have led to inconclusive results. Sometimes government inspectors have not been able to notice any odor of chemicals themselves; on at least one other occasion the inspector apparently did smell something, but no record can be found of the complaint. The oil and gas industry for its part has denied that any problem exists, and additional studies by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences are still ongoing.
Exposure to chemicals at worksites can lead to toxic exposure that can lead to a work illness or injury that can be as serious as a workplace accident and possibly even more serious if such exposure leads to long-term health effects such as cancer.
If you or one of your loved ones has been exposed to a toxic environment in connection with a work location, and physical symptoms have resulted, it may be advisable to consult with a law firm experienced with workplace safety matters.
Source: National Geographic, “High Levels of Dangerous Chemicals Found in Air Near Oil and Gas Sites,” Jamie Smith Hopkins, Oct. 30, 2014