BOULDER, Colo. — Coloradans living near oil and gas facilities may have a higher risk of getting cancer and other diseases according to a new study from the University of Colorado.
Researchers from the Colorado School of Public Health, NASA, Boulder County Public Health and other organizations worked on the study. It found people living near oil and gas sites in the northern portion of Colorado’s Front Range are often exposed to dangerous levels of air pollutants and carcinogens.
The report sampled air pollutant concentrations near oil and gas facilities. It found the lifetime cancer risk of those living within 500 feet of a well eight times higher than the maximum level considered acceptable by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The study monitored chemicals like benzene, a carcinogen produced by wells also known as a non-methane hydrocarbon.
“Our results suggest that Colorado’s current regulations that specify a 500-foot distance between a newly drilled oil and gas well and an existing home may not protect people from exposures to hazardous air pollutants that could impact their health,” said the study’s lead author Lisa McKenzie, PhD, MPH, of the Colorado School of Public Health. She added that thousands of Coloradans live closer than 500 feet from a well.
An estimated 356,000 people living in the northern Front Range are within one mile of an active oil and gas site, according to the report.
“The results underscore the importance of having policies that require effective monitoring and reducing emissions from oil and gas facilities, particularly those near homes, schools, and recreation areas,” said Pam Milmoe, Boulder County Public Health’s air quality program coordinator.
Colorado requires new wells to be built 500 feet from homes and 1,000 feet from high-occupancy buildings like hospitals and schools, according to the report.