Friday, November 19, 2021

Preliminary Results From New Penn State Study Find Increased Cancer, Health Risks From Road Dumping Conventional Drilling Wastewater, Especially For Children

Preliminary results from a new Penn State research study by a team led by
Dr. Nathaniel Warner found road dumping of conventional oil and gas drilling wastewater results in increased cancer risks for people living along those roads, especially children.

The study found increased cancer risk from arsenic, lead and nickel in road dust contaminated by wastewater that is above the one in a million risk threshold.

In addition, increased health risks were found to younger populations from the neurotoxins like arsenic, manganese and lead, also found in the wastewater contaminated road dust.

The results of the study were presented by Dr. Warner at the PA League of Women Voters and University of Pittsburgh Graduate School Of Public Health Shale and Public Health Conference on November 17.

This new study adds to the growing body of scientific research showing road dumping of conventional oil and gas wastewater is a threat to human health and the environment.  [Read more here.]

The study analyzed road dust samples from roads where spreading of conventional oil and gas drilling wastewater had occurred.

The study looked at the risk this dust presented to an individual living 200 feet away from the road and in their homes.  

The study did not look at the more direct risks for someone driving a vehicle or Amish buggy or walking to school on a road contaminated by road spreading of drilling wastewater.

“The particle that we looked at is smaller than 2.5 microns,” said Dr. Warner. “This would get all the way into your lungs, and could potentially get stuck there.”

“We assumed that someone was 200 feet from a roadway, a dirt and gravel roadway, and we broke it up into different age groups,” explained Dr. Warner.  “And we assumed the air you’re breathing inside your house has about a quarter of the dust from the outside.  Ingestion and inhalation rates are from EPA exposure handbooks.”

[Note: In reality, much more dust would get into rural homes along dirt roads where oil and gas wastewater is spread because it constantly destabilizes the road surface creating more dust than a road without wastewater.

[In addition, a typical house goes through at least three air exchanges a day, if the windows are closed, but in many rural areas windows are open.  Read more here.]

The study found--

-- Elevated health risks, in particular to younger populations, from the arsenic, manganese and lead neurotoxins in the road dust treated with wastewater;

-- The risk for getting cancer from arsenic and nickel where greater than the one in a million standard; and

-- The risk for getting cancer from chromium 6 and lead were also greater than one in a million.

"Lead and arsenic that previous studies found accumulated in these roadways, could increase the elevated [health] risk based on the dust exposure," said Dr. Warner.  “There do appear to be thus far cancer risks in excess of that one in a million [standard].”

"When we look at blood lead levels and exposure to lead like we did in this risk assessment in children under 18," Dr. Warner said.  "Of the top 15 [Pennsylvania counties] in terms of those kids under 18 with elevated blood lead levels, five of them are from these north western counties.

"Well, why is that important? Those are the counties that we see a lot of this spreading of oil and gas brines," said Dr. Warner. "And potentially, the dust associated with those areas could be a potential exposure pathway. More likely it’s from old lead pipes, but we can investigate that." 

“I didn't present, but we're working on, what does radium, and radioactivity that was added to the roadway, how does that impact [health risks],” said Dr. Warner.  “Those are really known carcinogens, and how does that impact our cancer [risk].”

Dr. Warner said they will be releasing information on the risks associated with radioactive radium contained in the road dust in the near future.

Dr. Warner acknowledged his colleagues Audrey Stallworth from Penn State, Robin Taylor Wilson from Temple University and staff from the Penn State Center For Dirt and Gravel Road Studies for their contributions to the study.

Funding for the study was provided by the National Institutes of Health and Penn State University’s Seed Grant Program.  

The study was not funded by the Department of Environmental Protection. [Read more here.]

Click Here for an audio recording of Dr. Warner’s presentation.

A video of the presentation will be posted on the PA League of Women Voters and University of Pittsburgh Graduate School Of Public Health  Shale and Public Health Conference webpage in the near future.

Related Articles This Week:

-- A First-Hand Account Of How Repeated, Unlimited Road Dumping Of Oil & Gas Drilling Wastewater Is Tearing Apart Dirt Roads And Creating Multiple Environmental Hazards - By Siri Lawson, Farmington Township, Warren County

-- New Pitt-Duquesne Study Shows Higher Exposures To Radiation In Road Dumping Of Drilling Wastewater When Appropriate Exposure Scenarios Are Used 

-- Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services, FracTracker Alliance Call On Citizens To Report Road Dumping Of Oil & Gas Drilling Wastewater 

-- Trout Unlimited: What Do Pennsylvania's Dirt And Gravel Roads Have To Do With Trout?  

-- EQB Accepts Petitions For Study To Increase Oil & Gas Well Bonding; DEP Has $15 Per Well Available In Bonds To Plug Conventional Wells

-- Marcellus Shale Coalition Challenges EQB Authority To Increase Bond Amounts For Conventional Oil & Gas Wells; DEP Has $15 Per Well Available In Bonds To Plug Conventional Wells 

-- PUC Imposes $1 Million Penalty On Energy Transfer Company For 2018 Revolution Pipeline Explosion In Beaver County

-- PUC Orders More Than A Dozen Actions To Improve Safety In Construction, Operation Of Mariner East Pipelines; Sunoco Must Pay $2,000 Penalty

-- DRBC Extends Comment Period On Draft Regulations Covering Discharges Of Wastewater From Fracking Operations & Ban On Road Dumping Of Wastewater & Co-Products

Related Article Last Week:

-- Bay Journal: Dirt Roads & Drilling Wastewater - Dustup Rises Over Health Issues

Related Articles:

-- The Science Says: Spreading Conventional Drilling Wastewater On Dirt & Gravel Roads Can Harm Aquatic Life, Poses Health Risks To Humans - And It Damages The Roads

-- New Penn State Study Shows Road Dumping Oil & Gas Drilling Wastewater Has Little Dust Suppression Benefit, Contains Pollutants Harmful To Human Health, Agriculture, Aquatic Life

-- Penn State Center For Dirt & Gravel Road Studies: Road Dumping Of Oil & Gas Wastewater To Control Dust Is Environmentally Unsound Practice

-- How The Conventional Oil & Gas Drilling Industry Eliminated Any Restrictions On The Disposal Of Millions Of Gallons Of Its Wastewater On PA’s Dirt & Gravel Roads

-- 17 Conventional Oil & Gas Drilling Operators Under Review By DEP To Determine If They Comply With Program Allowing Road Dumping Of Drilling Wastewater

-- Conventional Oil & Gas Drilling Advisory Council Critical Of DEP For Working With Penn State On Independent Studies Of Road Dumping Drilling Wastewater They Had Been Aware Of Since August, 2020

-- DEP: Potential For Environmental Impacts From Spills Or Leaks Of Radioactive Oil & Gas Waste Materials Is Real; Health Dept. Not Aware Of All Chemicals In Oil & Gas Wastewater Making Risk Assessment Difficult

-- 80 Organizations, 1,800+ Concerned Citizens To DEP: Ban Road Dumping Of Drilling Wastewater; Dept. Of Health Unaware Road Dumping Is Occurring

-- 65+ Groups Ask Biden Administration To Reclassify Oil & Gas Drilling Waste As 'Hazardous' To Prevent Road Dumping Of Wastewater And Other Practices

-- Op-Ed: Why Is the General Assembly About To Hurt Us By Authorizing Road Dumping Of Oil & Gas Wastewater?

-- Op-Ed: Will Our Dirt Roads Again Be Used As Dumping Sites For Oil & Gas Well Wastewater

-- Op-Ed: The Story Behind Stopping Conventional Oil & Gas Brine Spreading On Dirt Roads

-- Earthworks’ New Report, Interactive Map Tracks Disposal Of 380 Million Barrels Of PA Oil & Gas Drilling Wastewater, Including Road Dumping

-- House Republicans Pass Bill Legalizing Road Dumping Of Conventional Oil & Gas Well Wastewater, Rolling Back Environmental Protection Standards

[Posted: November 19, 2021]  PA Environment Digest

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