14 year analysis on upstream oil and gas production and ambient air pollution in California found: “higher concentrations of ambient air pollutants at air quality monitors in proximity to preproduction wells within 4 km and producing wells within 2 km” likely harming health of nearby residents. Findings “likely applicable to other regions with oil and gas operations.”

PDF of the complete paper

Upstream oil and gas production andambient air pollution in California by David J.X. Gonzalez, Christina K. Francis, Gary M. Shaw, Mark R. Cullen, Michael Baiocchi and Marshall Burke, Science of the Total Environment Volume 807, Part 2, 10 February 2022, 150836


This is a PDF file of an article that has undergone enhancements after acceptance…but it is not yet the definitive version of record.


•Oil and gas wells have been linked to adverse health, but mechanisms not well understood.

•Applied a quasi-experimental design with daily air pollution and oil production data

•We leveraged wind direction as source of exogenous variation for exposure to wells.

•Upstream oil and gas production emitted air pollutants at concentrations that may be harmful.

•Evaluated proximity as an appropriate indicator of air pollution exposure from wells



Prior studies have found that residential proximity to upstream oil and gas production is associated with increased risk of adverse health outcomes. Emissions of ambient air pollutants from oil and gas wells in the preproduction and production stages have been proposed as conferring risk of adverse health effects, but the extent of air pollutant emissions and resulting nearby pollution concentrations from wells is not clear.


We examined the effects of upstream oil and gas preproduction (count of drilling sites) and production (total volume of oil and gas) activities on concentrations of five ambient air pollutants in California.


We obtained data on approximately 1 million daily observations from 314 monitors in the EPA Air Quality System, 2006-2019, including daily concentrations of five routinely monitored ambient air pollutants: PM2.5, CO, NO2, O3, and VOCs. We obtained data on preproduction and production operations from Enverus and the California Geographic Energy Management Division (CalGEM) for all wells in the state. For each monitor and each day, we assessed exposure to upwind preproduction wells and total oil and gas production volume within 10 km. We used a panel regression approach in the analysis and fit adjusted fixed effects linear regression models for each pollutant, controlling for geographic, seasonal, temporal, and meteorological factors.


We observed higher concentrations of PM2.5 and CO at monitors within 3 km of preproduction wells, NO2 at monitors at 1-2 km, and O3 at 2-4 km from the wells. Monitors with proximity to increased production volume observed higher concentrations of PM2.5, NO2, and VOCs within 1 km and higher O3 concentrations at 1-2 km. Results were robust to sensitivity analyses.


Adjusting for geographic, meteorological, seasonal, and time-trending factors, we observed higher concentrations of ambient air pollutants at air quality monitors in proximity to preproduction wells within 4 km and producing wells within 2 km.

Living near oil and gas wells increases air pollution exposure, according to new research by Danielle Torrent Tucker, Stanford University, Oct 12, 2021, phys.org

Oil wells operating in Signal Hill, a city in Los Angeles County, California. Researchers found that drilling and operating wells emits harmful levels of pollution that may affect the health of nearby residents. Credit: David GonzalezIn a 14-year analysis of air quality across California, Stanford researchers observed higher levels of air pollutants within 2.5 miles of oil and gas wells, likely worsening negative health outcomes for nearby residents.

The scientists analyzed local air quality measurements in combination with atmospheric data and found that oil and gas wells are emitting toxic particulate matter (PM2.5), carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, ozone and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The findings, which appear in the journal Science of the Total Environment, will help researchers determine how proximity to oil and gas wells may increase the risk of adverse health outcomes, including preterm birth, asthma and heart disease.

“In California, Black and Latinx communities face some of the highest pollution from oil and gas wells. If we care about environmental justice and making sure every kid has a chance to be healthy, we should care about this,” said lead author David Gonzalez, who conducted research for the study while a Ph.D. student in Stanford’s Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources (E-IPER). “What’s novel about our study is that we’ve done this at a population, state-wide scale using the same methods as public health studies.”

The findings align with other smaller-scale studies that have measured emissions from a handful of wells. At least two million Californians live within one mile of an active oil or gas well.

“It’s really hard to show air quality impacts of an activity like oil and gas production at a population scale, but that’s the scale we need to be able to infer health impacts,” said senior study author Marshall Burke, an associate professor of Earth system science at Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences (Stanford Earth). “While it’s not necessarily surprising that drilling and operating oil and gas wells emit air pollutants, knowing the magnitude of the effect improves our broader understanding of who is exposed to what and how to intervene to improve health outcomes.”

A global killer

The research reveals that when a new well is being drilled or reaches 100 barrels of production per day, the deadly particle pollution known as PM2.5 increases two micrograms per cubic meter about a mile away from the site. A recent study published in Science Advances found that long-term exposure to one additional microgram per meter cubed of PM2.5 increases the risk of death from COVID-19 by 11 percent.

“We started in 2006 because that’s when local agencies started reporting PM2.5 concentrations,” said Gonzalez, who is now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Berkeley. “We’re very concerned about particulate matter because it’s a leading global killer.

The team evaluated about 38,000 wells that were being drilled and 90,000 wells in production between 2006 and 2019. They developed an econometric model incorporating over a million daily observations from 314 air monitors in combination with global wind direction information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to determine if the pollutants were coming from the wells.

Other factors that could be contributing to elevated emissions were controlled for—such as wildfire smoke or industrial activities—and monitors located far from drilling sites were used to identify those factors unrelated to wells. They also analyzed locations with air quality data from both before and after a well was drilled.

“Sometimes the wind is blowing from the well, sometimes it’s not, and we found significantly higher pollution on days when the wind is blowing from the wells,” Gonzalez said. “As a control, we assumed wells that are downwind of the air monitor shouldn’t contribute any pollution—and that is indeed what we saw.”

The research also reveals that ozone—a powerful oxidant that can cause wheezing, shortness of breath and aggravated lung disease—was present up to 2.5 miles from wells. Children are at the greatest risk from exposure to ozone because their lungs are still developing, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Chronic exposure

The new study contributes to a growing body of evidence about the dangers of living near oil and gas wells that may help guide ongoing policymaking around residential setbacks from drilling sites. For example, LA County recently voted to phase out oil and gas drilling, citing issues of climate change, environmental impacts and equity, and other California cities are in discussion about neighborhood drilling regulations.

“Many of California’s oil fields have been operating for decades. People that live near them have been chronically exposed to higher levels of pollution—and a lot of these wells are located in neighborhoods that are already burdened by pollution,” Gonzalez said. “Our study adds to the evidence that public health policies are needed to reduce residents’ exposure to air pollution from wells.”

Although data for the research is from California, the co-authors say the findings are likely applicable to other regions with oil and gas operations.

“We’ve had earlier papers suggesting that proximity to oil and gas production worsens health outcomes, and the likely channel was through air pollutants, but we previously didn’t have a good way to demonstrate that was the case,” Burke said. “This new work is helping confirm that air pollution was the missing link between this type of energy production and the bad outcome that we cared about.”

Refer also to:

2021: New study on frac’ing in NEBC, Peace River area: “Troubling” link between frac’ing and chemical contamination in homes; Living frac’d may harm your health. Massive new gas plant being built near those already impacted, expected to increase the number of frac’d wells from 10,000 to over 100,000.

2021: New Study, Fracking Kills: Cumulative exposure to frac’ing increases heart attacks among middle-aged and older residents in Pennsylvania. “Bans on hydraulic fracturing can be protective for public health.”

2021: More Oil & Gas Industry Pollution Health Harm Cover-up. Kert Davies: “We’ve seen the oil and gas industry’s disinformation campaign come full circle with the renewed attacks on research that tells us what we’ve known for decades – air pollution kills”

2021: Frac’ing takes our eyesight too? New study: Air pollution linked to higher risk of irreversible sight loss

2020: New 8-Year Study: “Significantly increased odds of hospitalization among heart failure subjects in relation to increasing” frac’ing activity near them; 12,000 patients analyzed. Lead author, Tara McAlexander: “These activities — unconventional natural gas development and fracking specifically — are having negative impacts on the health of populations living nearby,” thinks frac’ing needs to be banned. “We know enough to know that we shouldn’t be doing this”

2020: New study: Frac’ing in Pennsylvania linked to 20 human deaths caused by particulate pollution emitted by shale gas wells from 2010 to 2017

2020: Another new study: Living near oil & gas wells tied to low birth weights in infants, adds to growing body of evidence linking proximity to oil & gas to adverse health outcomes, including heart defects, cancer …

Frac harms have been known for years; nothing changes except courts piss longer and stronger on the rule of law (including intentionally publishing lies in ruling) and dirtier judges are put on the bench; frac lawsuit “public interest” lawyers abruptly quit, lie and lie, and lie, and withhold private property contrary to the rules of their profession, enabled by their regulator, the LSO; regulators lie more and more, inspect/enforce less and less and engage in more fraud to enable law violations and public health harm by companies; nearly all oil & gas dominated gov’ts give polluters more and more deregulation and more and more and bigger and bigger subsidies and gifts with our tax dollars to pollute more, knowingly weakening earth’s ability to sustain human life. When it comes to the oil and gas industry, authorities/regulators/courts don’t even bother hiding their rot and lies anymore.

2019: New study says shale gas not worth it, not even for the jobs: “Air pollution from shale gas development activities in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia from 2004 to 2016 resulted in 1,200 to 4,600 premature deaths in the region” costing $23 billion. “Climate impacts produced mid-range costs of an additional $34 billion” while cumulative impacts on water and air quality, ecosystem, climate, labor markets and public health “are still largely unexplored and unaccounted for.”

2019: Another study! Greater prevalence of congenital heart defects in areas with high intensity oil & gas well activity, Study provides further evidence of relationship between oil & gas and birth defects

2018: New Study: Frac chemical mix causes disturbing changes in breast tissue; Low levels of chemicals used in unconventional oil & gas production cause abnormal mammary glands and pre-cancerous lesions

2017: New peer-reviewed, published study by Lisa McKenzie et al, U Colorado School of Public Health: Childhood cancer linked to nearby oil and gas activity; People ages 5-24 diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia more likely to live in areas with a high concentration of oil and gas activity

Frac Captured State, Frac Captured Regulator, Frac Captured Courts? Colorado Supreme Court Strips Constitutional Right To Enact Local Fracking Bans: “It is beyond comprehension that the Colorado Supreme Court still fails to recognize the rights of people to live in a safe and healthy environment”

2016: New Study: Air pollutants make a case for walking ver-r-ry slowly. What if you live, go to school or work near or at unconventional oil and gas sites and associated facilities? No working, running, walking, skipping, playing, biking, gardening, lifting, tending livestock? No breathing allowed?2016: 8-year frac health study shows fracking associated with increased asthma attacks: “Those who lived closer to a large number or bigger active natural gas wells were significantly more likely…to suffer asthma attacks” … “The highest risk for asthma attacks occurred in people living a median of about 12 miles from drilled wells. The lowest risk was for people living a median of about 40 miles away.

2016: Concerned Health Professionals Ireland call for frac ban: ‘Extremely strong” evidence fracking harms human health

2015: Prevent Cancer Now calls out AER’s Health Fraud! “The AER has no jurisdiction for human health, and Alberta is famed for a chill against the medical community linking ill health to petrochemicals.”

2015: Another new study showing frac harms to health: Hydraulic fracturing linked to increases in hospitalization rates in the Marcellus Shale

2015: Another New Study Showing Frac Harm: ‘Fracking’ Linked to Low Birth Weight Babies, Pregnant women who live near multiple natural gas wells tend to have smaller infants

2015: Fracing’s long reach: New Study says Fracking Wells Could Pollute The Air Hundreds Of Miles Away

NW of Calgary, Alberta where “No Duty of Care” even for gross negligence, Charter violating, lying AER enables frac’ers’ toxic soup spread on cropland and pumped into the air.

2014: Quebec’s Premier Declares Province-wide Shale Gas Ban after Environmental Review Board (BAPE) says Fracking Not Worth The Risk, “Too many negative consequences to the environment and society…risks to air and water quality…noise and light pollution”

2014: New study links fracking to birth defects in heavily drilled Colorado, Risks of some birth defects increased as much as 30 percent in mothers who lived near oil and gas wells

2013: Pennsylvania Supreme Court Says It’s Unconstitutional For Gas Companies To Frack Wherever They Want

“By any responsible account,” [Pennsylvanian Supreme Court] Chief Justice Castille wrote, “the exploitation of the Marcellus Shale Formation will produce a detrimental effect on the environment, on the people, their children, and the future generations, and potentially on the public purse, perhaps rivaling the environmental effects of coal extraction.”

2012: Air emissions near natural gas drilling sites may contribute to health problems

2011: “It’s Like We’re Losing Our Love” Dr. Simona Perry Presentation (no longer available)

2010: Natural Gas Operations from a Public Health Perspective

For many years, drillers have insisted that they do not use toxic chemicals to drill for gas, only guar gum, mud, and sand. While much attention is being given to chemicals used during fracking, our findings indicate that drilling chemicals can be equally, if not more dangerous.

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