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Health Hazards Associated with Compressor stations and gas pipe lines

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Presentation on theme: "Health Hazards Associated with Compressor stations and gas pipe lines"— Presentation transcript:

1 Health Hazards Associated with Compressor stations and gas pipe lines
David O. Carpenter, MD Institute for Health and the Environment University at Albany




5 Gaseous Releases from Pipelines and Compressor Stations
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs): Many including methane, benzene, methylbenzenes, ethylbenzene, xylene, pentane, hexane, toluene, 1,3-butadiene and a variety of aliphatic hydrocarbons Formaldehyde Hydrogen sulfide Radon All of the above have adverse health effects on humans

6 Air Pollution Causes Cancer
The World Health Organization has recently declared outdoor air pollution to be a Group 1, known human carcinogen. Benzene , formaldehyde and radon are already identified as being Group 1, known human carcinogens. Even if health effects are known for exposure to one environmental contaminant, the effect of being exposed to multiple contaminants is uncertain. Co-exposure may have an additive effect or even a synergistic effect. Cancer has a long latency and effects may not appear for years.

7 Air Pollution Causes Other Diseases as Well
Both particulate and VOC air pollution cause increased risk of asthma, respiratory infections and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Immediate health effects include headaches, dizziness, eye, nose and throat irritation, visual disorders, memory problems, fatigue, nosebleeds. Silica causes silicosis, a restrictive lung disorder. Some VOCs are endocrine disruptors. Others cause liver or kidney damage.

8 Effects of VOCs on the Nervous System
Occupational studies report three levels of severity of VOC exposure on the brain and behavior: Organic affective syndrome: Depression, irritability. Mild chronic toxic encephalopathy: Fatigue, mood disturbances, memory and attention complaints. Severe chronic toxic encephalopathy: Loss of intellectual abilities, impaired judgment and memory, personality changes.

9 Hydrogen Sulfide and Other Sulfur Compounds
Hydrogen sulfide (the smell of rotten eggs) is produced naturally in the earth from degradation of organic materials, and is always a component of natural gas. Hydrogen sulfide causes wheeze and eye irritation on acute exposure and reduced lung function and asthma after chronic, low level exposure. Some studies have reported long-lasting cognitive and sensory deficits as well as severe headaches after acute exposure to hydrogen sulfide, but whether direct or due to stress from odor is unclear. However some of these reports show chronic neurobehavioral abnormalities after acute hydrogen sulfide exposure.

10 Formaldehyde Formaldehyde is formed both from incomplete combustion (diesel trucks, burning natural gas) and from interaction between methane and light in the presence of nitrogen compounds. Monitoring at a pipeline compressor station in Lake Arlington, Fort Worth, TX measured very large short-term concentrations of formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a carcinogen and causes nosebleeds, vomiting, skin irritation, and respiratory effects. Formaldehyde exposure increases risk of asthma in young children.

11 Pennsylvania compressor station samples exceeding EPA IRIS cancer risk at 1/10,000 for formaldehyde or 1/100,000 for benzene.


13 Arkansas samples that exceed EPA IRIS 1/10,000 cancer risk.

14 Particulate Matter Particulate matter (PM) comes from diesel exhaust from trucks and combustion at compressor stations. Prenatal exposure to PM has been associated with low birth weight. Elevated PM increases risk of asthma and respiratory symptoms, such as coughing, difficulty breathing, and respiratory infections. People with underlying cardiovascular disease are at greater risk of death on days with elevated particulate air pollution.


16 Photochemical SMOG Smog is chemically different from other air pollutions Need certain factors, mainly auto exhaust and sunlight: Large problem where both occur (LA, Phoenix, Denver) Photochemical reaction starting with releases of NO2 …… NO NO + O O + O O3 (ozone) Ozone + hydrocarbons Complex peroxyacetyl nitrates (PAN’s) [PAN’s are known eye irritants, also found in mace] . . sunlight .

17 Ozone Studies have shown that ozone cause inflammation of the respiratory tract and increases risk of asthma attacks. Ozone combines with VOCs to form smog. Colorado, Wyoming, Texas and Utah have all recorded ozone levels that exceed federal limits. Wyoming and Utah have ozone measurements higher than the worst days in Los Angeles. May be difficult for some areas to meet the federal limits until new regulations go into effect limiting flaring and requiring “green completion” technology.

18 Radon as a Contaminant Radon is a gas, and a product of decay of Ra It has a half-life of 3.8 days. Radon levels in Pennsylvania gas samples ranged from 1-79 pCi/L (median 32 pCi/L), which is 8x higher than the EPA standard for indoor air. M. Resnikoff calculated that radon from Marcellus Shale gas pipelines and being released by natural gas burned in homes in New York may result in between 1183 and 30,484 new cancer cases. Smokers are at higher risk of lung cancer due to synergistic effect of radon and smoking. It is possible to store natural gas for a period before sending it down the pipe, but there will be radon in newly extracted gas at compressor stations.

19 Problems with Regulation only by FERC
FERC does not assess health impacts, but only implements exposure standards set by federal agencies. Many of the federal exposure standards were derived years ago and are obsolete and not protective of human health. It is critical to evaluate spikes of contamination, not just averages over long periods of time. These spikes are not captured in current regulations. FERC does not regulate potential serious adverse health effects resulting from consumer use of “new” natural gas, such as exposure to radon.

20 Conclusions: Compressor stations are major sources of air pollutants, some of which, like formaldehyde and radon, are known human carcinogens. They also often allow significant escape of methane and other volatile organic compounds that cause cancer and respiratory and nervous system disease. Pipelines and compressor stations are vulnerable to unintended releases, explosions and other system failures. They should be placed as far from densely populated areas as possible. While there is clearly an economic benefit from natural gas, the benefit must not be at the expense of the health of those persons, especially children, who live near the compressor station sites.

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