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Children's Asthma Linked to Gas-Drilling Pollution

Pollution from oil and gas production is being tied to thousands of West Virginia childhood asthma attacks a year. (Clean Air Task Force)
Pollution from oil and gas production is being tied to thousands of West Virginia childhood asthma attacks a year. (Clean Air Task Force)
September 6, 2016

CHARLESTON, W.VA. - Many West Virginia kids spend their days gasping for breath, according to a new report. But new limits on pollution from oil and gas wells could help. A first-of-its-kind analysis from the Clean Air Task Force shows air pollution from oil and gas facilities impacting the folks downwind.

Janice Nolen, assistant vice president for national policy with the American Lung Association, said more than nine million tons of methane and other pollutants are released each year by the industry, contributing to ozone and smog.

"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 said.

The report ties 5,000 to 15,000 West Virginia childhood asthma attacks a year to oil and gas production. The Obama administration recently finalized rules on new sources of methane and ozone pollution from the oil and gas industry, and supporters say that should help.

Paul Billings, senior vice president for advocacy with the American Lung Association, supports new methane rules proposed by the federal government to limit waste of natural gas from flaring and leaks.

"Air pollution remains a serious threat to the health of millions of people, and oil and gas extraction is part of the problem," he said. "And if EPA takes steps towards regulating existing sources, we can take tremendous steps toward reducing that burden."

The study's findings also can be explored with an online interactive tool, oilandgasthreatmap.com/, that displays data about the threats communities face from oil and gas industry pollution.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV