As oil and gas drilling spreads across the United States, scant attention has been paid to air emissions from the waste the boom has created. InsideClimate News and The Center for Public Integrity examine these emissions in the latest installment in their 18-month investigation, Big Oil and Bad Air on the Texas Prairie.
InsideClimate News reporters David Hasemyer and Zahra Hirji found that because of a 1988 exemption from federal hazardous-waste laws sought by the oil and gas industry, the waste is classified as non-hazardous.
This has left waste pits virtually unregulated and put nearby residents at risk of exposure to chemicals like benzene, which can cause cancer. It’s impossible to know whether these chemicals are drifting into air at levels high enough to cause problems for nearby residents, because most states don’t require oil and gas waste facilities to monitor or collect any data about their waste emissions.
Here’s, however, what we do know about the potential health impacts of four airborne chemicals released from waste pits: