Air pollution and health impacts of oil and gas production in the United States

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Abstract: “Oil and gas production is one of the largest emitters of methane, a potent greenhouse gas and a significant contributor of air pollution emissions. While research on methane emissions from oil and gas production has grown rapidly, there is comparatively limited information on the distribution of impacts of this sector on air quality and associated health impacts. Understanding the contribution of air quality and health impacts of oil and gas can be useful for designing mitigation strategies. In this study, researchers assess air quality and human health impacts associated with ozone, fine particulate matter, and nitrogen dioxide from the oil and gas sector in the US in 2016, and compare this impact with that of the associated methane emissions.

The study finds air pollution in 2016 from the oil and gas sector in the US resulted in 410,000 asthma exacerbations, 2,200 new cases of childhood asthma and 7,500 excess deaths, with $77 billion in total health impacts. NO2 was the highest contributor to health impacts (37%) followed by ozone (35%), and then PM2.5 (28%). When monetized, these air quality health impacts of oil and gas production exceeded estimated climate impact costs from methane leakage by a factor of 3. These impacts add to the total life cycle impacts of oil and gas, and represent potential additional health benefits of strategies that reduce consumption of oil and gas. Policies to reduce oil and gas production emissions will lead to additional and significant health benefits from co-pollutant reductions that are not currently quantified or monetized.”

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