Doug Conarroe: Health stats are no more alarming near oil and gas wells

A recent of air pollution studies, front page, says that although VOC emissions near oil and gas facilities were “generally below health-based standards,” people are still getting sick.

To solve the mystery, this study of studies suggests testing dangerous VOC emissions in combinations and long-term. But that‘s problematic given that it would take several hundred years to work through millions, possibly billions, of combinations.

Since we already have a gigantic petri dish of sorts in Weld County, where oil and gas wells have been present for 30 years (long-term) and now number 40,000, wouldn‘t it be easier to look at the existing empirical evidence of health trends?

Voila, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has been doing just that. According to the CDPHE, health statistics for Weld County show that instances of asthma, cancer, birth defects, infant mortality and low birth weights are no more alarming, and in some cases lower, than rates in other counties where there are no oil and gas wells and none within several hundred miles. In fact, cancer rates in Weld County have dropped during the last 20 years.

By the way, in 2017 the CDPHE did a study of studies too — many the same as the Annual Review study — and found that most were too flawed to prove a causal relationship between oil and gas activity and people getting sick.

Speaking of studies, how about a front page story about the recent study that says that low-cost natural gas, the result of plentiful supplies created from fracking, saves 11,000 lives per year nationwide? The National Institute of Health-funded study accounts for (controls for) air pollution deaths from oil and gas emissions, and concludes that cheaper energy allows lower-income households to stay warm in the winter instead of freezing to death.

Doug Conarroe


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