Ambient Nonmethane Hydrocarbon Levels Along Colorado's Northern Front Range: Acute and Chronic Health Risks

Lisa M. McKenzie, Benjamin Blair, John Hughes, William B. Allshouse, Nicola J. Blake, Detlev Helmig, Pam Milmoe, Hannah Halliday, Donald R. Blake, John L. Adgate

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Oil and gas (O&G) facilities emit air pollutants that are potentially a major health risk for nearby populations. We characterized prenatal through adult health risks for acute (1 h) and chronic (30 year) residential inhalation exposure scenarios to nonmethane hydrocarbons (NMHCs) for these populations. We used ambient air sample results to estimate and compare risks for four residential scenarios. We found that air pollutant concentrations increased with proximity to an O&G facility, as did health risks. Acute hazard indices for neurological (18), hematological (15), and developmental (15) health effects indicate that populations living within 152 m of an O&G facility could experience these health effects from inhalation exposures to benzene and alkanes. Lifetime excess cancer risks exceeded 1 in a million for all scenarios. The cancer risk estimate of 8.3 per 10"000 for populations living within 152 m of an O&G facility exceeded the United States Environmental Protection Agency's 1 in 10"000 upper threshold. These findings indicate that state and federal regulatory policies may not be protective of health for populations residing near O&G facilities. Health risk assessment results can be used for informing policies and studies aimed at reducing and understanding health effects associated with air pollutants emitted from O&G facilities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4514-4525
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 17 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The risk analysis was conducted as part of the AirWaterGas Sustainability Research Network funded by the National Science Foundation under Grant CBET-1240584. The collection of the 1-minute samples was supported by funding that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment provided to the National Center for Atmospheric Research and NSF Front Range Air Pollution and Photochemistry Experiment (FRAPPÉ) campaign which took place in conjunction with the NASA DISCOVER-AQ project. We would like to thank Gabrielle Pet́ ron Anne Thompson, Simone Meinardi, Jason Schroeder, Daniel Bon, Amy Townsend-Small, and Bianca Baier for their assistance with ground sampling. Funding for the collection of the continuous air measurements was supplied by the NASA DISCOVER-AQ project. Funding for the collection of the 72−96-h samples was supplied by Boulder County Public Health. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF, CDPHE, NASA, or the Boulder County Health Public Health Department.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 American Chemical Society.


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