Today’s air pollution, especially from shale oil and gas infrastructure, contains smaller sized particles or soot compared to the visible smog we remember from generations ago. Today, industrial operations like shale oil and gas emit particulate matter much smaller in size – less than 2.5 microns in diameter (or about 1/30th the diameter of a human hair) – and, thus, invisible.
Unfortunately, smaller invisible particles penetrate much deeper into the lung tissue where they can more easily be absorbed into the bloodstream, causing systemic health effects. Air pollution from shale oil and gas operations is also rich in the fumes and vapors present in fossil fuels – volatile organic compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, radon gas – which have significant health impacts from exposure.
Finally, methane, an extremely potent greenhouse gas, escapes from every point of shale oil and gas infrastructure. This makes shale gas a climate change accelerant which endangers every human living and those not-yet-born.
EHP has developed a factsheet, How Shale Gas Development (Fracking) Affects Public Health, that lays out the multiple risks to health and environment from shale gas development.
In addition, the oil and gas industry has been exempted from many parts of federal environmental protections. Information on the exemptions, published by Earthworks, can be found in the document Loopholes for Polluters.