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Workers at Fracking Sites Exposed to Cancer-Causing Gas

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People who work at oil and gas sites where fracking occurs are exposed to high levels of a cancer-causing gas, according to a study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

The agency, which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), found that people who work near fracking sites are at an increased risk of being exposed to benzene, a colorless gas known to cause cancer.

Researchers found that the amount of airborne benzene that oil and gas workers were exposed to when they opened hatches atop tanks at well sites, was higher than the recommended amount in 15 out of 17 samples. The agency recommends that people keep their benzene intake to an average of 0.1 of a part per million during their shift, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The study observed exposure risks for oil and gas workers during a phase of oil and gas extraction known as flowback, according to the Los Angeles Times. During this process, workers gauge the volume of liquids in flowback tanks by opening top hatches and inserting measuring sticks into the tanks.

Much of the danger of exposure comes when the workers open these hatches to inspect their contents, which may include oil, chemicals or waste water used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the Los Angeles Times reported. The readings taken by researchers found that benzene levels at the wells to potentially pose health risks for workers.

During the course of the study, researchers took readings from six oil and gas sites in Colorado and Wyoming, spending about two days at each site. Sixteen workers were outfitted with small devices attached to their shirt collars. The devices sampled the air throughout the day, the Los Angeles Times reported.

During a typical 12-hour shift, workers open the hatches and stand above them between one and four times per hour. Each time they do this they breathe in the fumes for two to five minutes, exposing their body to dangerous levels of exposure to various chemicals used in fracking, or from the hydrocarbons themselves, researchers wrote.

State governments have begun to gradually crack down on fracking sites in recent years. In April, California officials ordered an emergency shutdown of 11 oil and gas waste injection sites due to concerns companies may have been pumping tracking liquids  and other waste into drinking water aquifers. There have also been movements in Texas to shut down fracking sites after researchers found elevated levels of heavy metals in the groundwater near fracking sites.

A 2012 investigation by ProPublica into more than 700,000 injection wells across the U.S. found that wells were often poorly regulated and experienced high rates of failure. The information suggested that tracking practices were likely polluting underground water supplies that are supposed to be protected by federal law. disclaimer: This article: Workers at Fracking Sites Exposed to Cancer-Causing Gas was posted on Tuesday, September 16th, 2014 at 12:19 pm at and is filed under Toxic Substances Lawsuits.

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