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Report: Illinois Kids Sidelined by Oil and Gas Air Pollution

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Research says 27,000 childhood asthma attacks occur in Illinois, just over the summer months, due to air pollution from oil and gas operations. (mrplough/Flickr)
Research says 27,000 childhood asthma attacks occur in Illinois, just over the summer months, due to air pollution from oil and gas operations. (mrplough/Flickr)
 By Mary KuhlmanContact
September 1, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Hundreds of Illinois children spend their days gasping for breath, according to a new report from the Clean Air Task Force.

A first-of-its-kind analysis from the environmental advocacy group shows how air pollution from oil and gas facilities can impact the health of communities.

In Illinois, the report says the result is more than 27,000 summertime childhood asthma attacks.

Janice Nolen, assistant vice president for national policy with the American Lung, points out more than 9 million tons of methane and other pollutants are released each year by the oil and gas industry, contributing to the formation of ozone smog pollution.

"You've got pipelines and engines and equipment that have historically just sort of leaked some of these volatile organic compounds and methane, and have not been recognized as being the contributor that they are," she explains.

The report’s findings can be explored with an online interactive tool – oilandgasthreatmap.com – that displays data about the threats communities face from oil and gas industry pollution.

Illinois ranks eighth overall nationally for the worst health effects related to oil and gas production.

While the health risks are greatest near the original sources, airborne pollution from oil and gas facilities has health impacts far downwind.

Robin Garlish of Central Illinois is raising a daughter with severe asthma and now has adult onset asthma herself.

She recalls a scary moment when at the age of two her daughter stopped breathing.

"Her coughing became so bad into an asthma attack that I had to perform CPR on her until the paramedics and ambulance came,” she relates. “And it was the hardest thing I ever experienced. I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy."

The Obama administration recently finalized national standards for new sources of methane and ozone pollution from the oil and gas industry.

And Garlish contends stronger standards that apply to existing sources also are needed to protect public health.

"The elevated smog, the methane and the poor air quality levels in Central Illinois, it's killing us,” she maintains. “We all need to demand stronger federal safeguards to limit toxic air pollutants."

The report also notes that methane pollution from oil and gas facilities exacerbates climate change, resulting in hotter temperatures and stagnant air, conditions that worsen ozone smog levels.



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