Colorado Rising Statement on CDPHE Oil and Gas Health Impacts Study


Contacts: Anne Lee Foster: 757-870-5102,


Colorado Rising Statement on CDPHE Oil and Gas Health Impacts Study

DENVER, COLORADO– Today the Journal of the Air and Waste Management Association released a study on the health impacts of oil and gas in Colorado.

Of note, the study recognizes “…hematological toxicity associated with benzene was the critical toxic effect.”, meaning toxic levels of benzene in blood were potential harm from the documented emissions.

The CDPHE and the COGCC in a press conference repeated that the dangerous exposure levels were infrequent, yet the study concluded: “We also have high confidence that the estimated exposures reasonably represent some real-life exposures that could be experienced by people living near O&G facilities, due to the stochastic approaches to dispersion and ME assessment allowing the generation of thousands of acute-to-chronic exposure scenarios for individuals across the 2,000-ft radius. These approaches and findings can be used to further evaluate data needs and to support refinement of setback distances.”

The study also found “Exclusion of these compounds means our simulated total cancer risks from O&G operations are underestimated, but the degree of underestimation cannot be assessed accurately.”

The study “also did not calculate cancer risks for several chemicals in our assessment (styrene, isoprene, and ethylbenzene) classified by IARC or EPA as ‘possible’ or ‘probable’ human carcinogens, but for which human exposure-response models were not available. Exclusion of chemicals from our analysis results in lower estimates of HIs and total cancer risks than if we had included them.”

Ethylbenzene is almost exclusively emitted by oil and gas and is a known carcinogen. Dozens of Front Range residents have documented extremely high levels of ethylbenzene in their blood.

Anne Lee Foster, Communications Director of Colorado Rising, the grassroots, citizen group behind Prop 112 said: “The insistence from the state that dangerous exposure to carcinogens from oil and gas is infrequent is concerning. The study looked at exposure from an individual well, not the dozens or hundreds of wells that people are living in close proximity to across the state. The state must look at the cumulative impacts of living near dozens of industrial fracking sites to understand the true impacts of this unprecedented development in our communities. This is a requirement of SB-181. In the case of one Erie mother, whose son’s blood test revealed 90+ percentile of benzene and ethylbenzene content, there are over 160 wells within a mile of their home and the son’s school.”

“Dozens of Front Range children have already documented off-the-charts levels of benzene in their blood, a known carcinogen of which the World Health Organization says there is no safe exposure level. Considering this documented exposure and the corroborative data of the study, the only responsible thing to do is pause oil and gas permitting and ensure that public health and safety is protected, as new legislation mandates. The CDPHE repeatedly stated they don’t know at what frequency the exposure is happening. How can they proceed with permitting if they don’t even know the level of harm being done in the first place? If more research is needed to determine the level of harm, how can Jeff Robbins ensure new permits are ‘sufficiently protective?’”

“This study also highlights the insufficiencies of oversight and enforcement of oil and gas extraction in Colorado. The study states “This is particularly important because emissions from O&G activities can vary greatly in time and by phase of O&G activity (Adgate et al., 2014; Allen, 2016; Brantley et al., 2015; CSU, 2016a; CSU, 2016b; McMullin et al., 2018; Thompson et al., 2017). This is especially pertinent to acute chemical exposures, which at high levels can be associated with headaches, nosebleeds, fatigue, dizziness, etc., depending on the chemical, intensity of exposure, and sensitivity of the individual.”

“A frequent story we hear from impacted residents, particularly with the recent drilling near homes in Broomfield, is they experience all of the listed symptoms from this chemical exposures, they report it to the state, but by the time the inspector makes it out to the site, often days later, the issue is gone because of this fluctuation. Again, how can they know what harm is being done if they can’t even respond in real-time as the problem would require?”

“Lastly, we feel the shift of the objective criteria from 1500ft to 2000ft highlights the arbitrary nature of the standards. Robbins has repeatedly stated no health data was used to develop the criteria and this reevaluation puts the rest of the criteria in question as to its protectiveness and substance.”

Please contact Anne Lee Foster for interview requests with residents living near drilling or that have documented VOCs in their blood.


Colorado Rising is powering the grassroots movement to protect public health & safety from dangerous oil & gas operations.

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