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Health Impacts of Oil and Gas Pollution: Texas Mom Shares Her Story

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Misti O'Quinn of Dallas County says her children's asthma is exacerbated by nearby oil and gas infrastructure. (Moms Clean Air Force)
Misti O'Quinn of Dallas County says her children's asthma is exacerbated by nearby oil and gas infrastructure. (Moms Clean Air Force)
 By Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - TX, Contact
July 30, 2018

Dallas — The Environmental Protection Agency and Interior Department are rolling back regulations for pollution from oil and gas facilities, and a new report says that's putting children at risk.

The report, from Moms Clean Air Force, lays out what it claims are the consequences of pollution from oil and gas drilling, in the words of seven women living in vulnerable communities.

Dallas County mom Misti O'Quinn is among those sharing her story. She said nearby oil and gas infrastructure poses a serious threat to her three children - two of whom suffer from moderate to severe asthma. Smog makes it worse, she said, and air pollution knows no borders.

"So it all just kind of blows in,” O’Quinn said. “That mixed with car exhaust, mixed with buses - it's just almost like a melting pot of bad stuff for your lungs."

O'Quinn said her daughter missed an entire week of classes during the last school year because of asthma flare-ups. According to the report, oil and gas pollution is responsible for more than 140,000 summertime asthma attacks in Texas children, and more than 105,000 lost school days.

The Dallas-Fort Worth area also is rated worst nationally for the health burden on African-Americans from oil and gas pollution. Quinn said this vulnerability inspired her to create the group Breath is Lyfe, which educates parents about the impacts of air pollution on health.

"None of us are exempt from it. In the nicer areas where they don't see it, it's just not an issue to them, but it really is,” she said. “So we to all need to come together on that, and I feel like we can be pretty successful in making our voices heard."

O'Quinn noted the Dallas area has been in a state of non-attainment for quite some time, which means air pollution is above levels considered healthy to breathe. And she's outraged that federal officials want to weaken safeguards that help protect communities.

"Just from the standpoint of being in attainment based on the standards that were already in place, we haven't even done that, and we know that the air is bad,” she said. “So for us to roll back any of the safeguards that are supposed to be there, how would that not make it worse? It's baffling."

According to the report, more than 8 million tons of methane smog forming volatile organic compounds are released into the air every year.

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