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.
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.]
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
-- 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?
Related Article Last Week:
-- 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[Posted: November 19, 2021] PA Environment Digest