Research to help shape efforts to reduce dangerous air pollution
By Bob Berwyn
Emissions from oil and gas production along the Colorado Front Range are a significant, measurable part of the region’s chronic summer ozone problem, scientists concluded after taking a close look at air pollution during an extensive research project in the summer of 2014.
Ozone levels in the area often spike above 70 parts per billion, a level deemed by the EPA to be dangerous to human health and to the environment, causing respiratory problems and damage to plants. About 17 ppb of that ozone are produced locally; about 3 ppb come from oil and gas industry emissions, according to a new study, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.
As NOAA put it, “Vast regions west of the Mississippi River are under development for oil and gas extraction … but while one focus is on what comes out of the ground, NOAA and Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences researchers and their colleagues are studying what escapes to the air—and how it is transformed in the atmosphere and affects air quality and climate.
Scientists hope to learn much more about the massive quantities of pollution escaping from fossil fuel development areas in the next few months as they launch this year’s Shale Oil and Natural Gas Nexus (SONGNEX 2015) field campaign, using airborne instruments to measure greenhouse gases and other toxic emissions.
SUMMIT COUNTY — Unregulated chemicals in laundry products emit more than 20 volatile organic compounds when they’re used in household dryers. The compounds include seven hazardous air pollutants and two known carcinogens — acetaldehyde and benzene — for which the EPA has not established safe exposure levels.
The University of Washington research suggests that, based on the amount of laundry products used in the region, household clothes dryers could account for the equivalent of 6 percent of the amount of acetaldehyde emissions coming from automobiles.
The study was done by Anne Steinemann, a UW professor of civil and environmental engineering and of public affairs. Steineman previously used chemical sleuthing to deduce what chemicals are being used in fragranced consumer products.
Steinemann says she was spurred to do the study by people reporting adverse reactions to fragranced air coming from laundry vents. The project’s website includes letters from the public reporting health effects from scented consumer products.