Nowadays, natural gas’s impact on human health has been a debatable topic for environmentalists and scientists. Natural gas is commonly a byproduct of oil extraction, especially during hydraulic fracturing, and oftentimes is so overly abundant that it’s vented into the atmosphere or burned off at the extraction site, both of which vastly increase the carbon pollution associated with the natural gas process chain.
Natural gas is a fossil fuel that is often promoted as “cleaner” than coal, but natural gas impact on human health and also causes serious environmental hazards. It is good to note that natural gas is not a “transition” fuel. Natural gas extraction not only affects the ecosystem but also threatens human health as well.
Natural gas as the world’s cleanest fossil fuel, produces only carbon dioxide, water vapor, and small amounts of nitrogen oxide when burned. Natural gas is also used to power a wide range of consumer products, including furnaces, fireplaces, clothes dryers, and stoves. At least one of your appliances likely runs on natural gas.
Natural gas has been hailed as the solution to our energy problems on the one hand, and a potential environmental nightmare on the other. Although natural gas is the obvious choice as a replacement for highly pollutant fuels as a major energy source, there are several advantages and disadvantages associated with natural gas.
There is no perfect energy source, and natural gas energy is no exception. This fuel has its disadvantages as well as advantages that will affect its future as an energy source.
Natural gas can be poisonous. Inhaling large quantities of gas is very unhealthy. Methane is asphyxiant. Which means that it takes away all your oxygen and causes death. Benzene which is a constituent of natural gas has been discovered to cause cancer, blood disorders, and other health problems.
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10 Natural Gas Impact on Human Health
Most of the focus on the impact of natural gas release has been on the environment and economy. Likely harm to human health, which can be long-lasting, has largely been ignored. Available health evidence is limited to small case studies examining the impact of natural gas release in most regions around the world especially areas that experience more of gas flaring.
The lack of evidence is not surprising because identifying the comprehensive health impacts of flaring requires detailed data on air quality, flaring volumes, and health records. Natural gas has been also identified to cause both minor and major disorders in humans. Here are 10 possible impacts of natural gas on human health.
- Vision Problems.
- Respiratory Problems
- Pre-Natal Damage
- Blood Disease
- Anxiety and Depression
- Irritated Skin and Blisters
- Heart Diseases
- Water Related Diseases
1. Vision Problem
Incompletely burnt gas can release carbon monoxide, another dangerous gas that can affect your health. Natural gas can cause the eyes to dry out and become sore and irritated. Eye irritation is generally associated with exposure to highly concentrated levels of natural gas or with situations in which gas is released directly into the eyes it can impair vision and subsequently lead to dizziness.
Furthermore, as reported by Forbes, every year between 20,0000 and 30,000 people in the United States are exposed to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide which can result in weakness, loss of consciousness, and in some severe cases blurred vision.
2. Respiratory Problem
Inhalation of toxic gas like methane can lead to pneumonitis. Methane is a component of natural gas mainly used as a fuel source and chemical feedstock in industries. It is usually harmless, however, at high concentrations; it may reduce the oxygen percentage in the air causing suffocation.
It has been discovered that methane gas exposure or intoxication causes loss of consciousness or asphyxia. There is however a paucity of information about acute pulmonary toxicity from methane gas inhalation. Also, individuals with lung conditions or other problems with breathing may be acutely affected by exposure to natural gas.
3. Pre-Natal Damage
Carbon monoxide is odorless, and highly poisonous and robs the blood of oxygen. When inhaled by pregnant women, carbon monoxide can threaten the fetal growth and mental development of the child. United State Code (USC) researchers found that exposure to flaring was associated with 50% higher odds of preterm birth.
Researchers from the United State Code and the University of California Los Angeles have discovered that women living near a natural gas well that uses flaring to burn excess gas face a greater risk of premature birth than women with no exposure.
4. Blood Disease
Everyone is exposed to small amounts of carbon monoxide throughout the day. However, inhaling too much of it can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide can increase to dangerous levels when combustion fumes become trapped in poorly ventilated or enclosed spaces (such as garages).
Inhaling these fumes causes carbon monoxide to build up in the bloodstream, which can lead to severe tissue damage. Carbon monoxide poisoning is extremely serious and can be life-threatening
5. Anxiety and Depression
Anxiety and depression are the most common mental disorders and are becoming one of the leading public health problems in the world. Natural gas-related symptoms have been associated with poorer quality of life, higher stress, anxiety, and depression.
A growing body of evidence has links to particulate air pollution, an environmental hazard associated with a natural gas release that ranges from depression to anxiety. And without treatment anxiety and depression symptoms may lead to serious consequences, which include chronic disease and increased death rate.
6. Irritated Skin and Blisters
Some individuals begin to notice skin irritation symptoms due to exposure to natural gas. A large abundance of natural gas in the air may cause blisters or numbness. In addition, prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide may lead to skin discoloration turning the skin pink and the lips bright red, and other types of issues.
In case of severe poisoning, the skin on the whole body turns red. Research according to US News and world report says individuals living near active natural gas wells in Pennslyvania suffer far more allergies, skin rashes, and other skin conditions than people living further away. Statistically among those near the natural gas well, 13 percent reported skin problems like irritation, burning, itching, and hair loss.
Environmental and community factors may influence the development of sleep problems in an individual. Individuals living near areas where drilling of natural gas takes place have been reported to constantly experience reduced life satisfaction, feelings of disempowerment, social stress, negative physiological states, and disruption in the sense of place. Nighttime noise pollution and light pollution from the process can affect or disrupt sleep alongside potential mental health consequences.
One of the primary symptoms often reported by people who have been exposed to natural gas. A migraine is a headache of varying intensity typically affecting one side of the brain, which is mostly accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to light and sound. Exposure of humans to natural gas through respiration can lead to this health disorder in the body as the gases released such as carbon monoxide is a major causative gas.
9. Heart Diseases
Natural gas extraction emits pollutants that are associated with cardiovascular diseases (CVD). While exposure to low levels of natural gas is not harmful, long-term exposure can affect your health. Burning natural gas produces nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, and methane. When exposed to them give early signs of cardiovascular disease (CVD), including high blood pressure, changes in the stiffness of blood vessels, heart failure, and makers of inflammation.
10. Water-Related Diseases
There are two main ways methane can get into your drinking water. Methane can leak from deep underground storage fields or drilling fields. As the methane gas works upwards from the source to the surface it may dissolve in groundwater and surface water.
Natural gas release may pose health risks to nearby communities through contamination of drinking water sources with hazardous chemicals used in drilling the well, hydraulically fracturing the well, processing and refining the oil or gas, or disposing of wastewater.
Naturally occurring radioactive materials, methane, and other underground gases have sometimes leaked into drinking water supplies from improperly cased wells. Exposure of individuals to natural gas-contaminated water can lead to several water-related diseases.
Since natural gas is naturally invisible and odorless, it can be hard to detect at high concentrations in the air. To combat this problem, natural gas distribution companies are required to add a form of mercaptan, a chemical that smells like rotten eggs. At low concentrations, escaping natural gas can be detected by smell; however, relying entirely on your sense of smell can be disastrous.
Furthermore, in some cases, natural gas used in some plants may not contain any odorant and so would go undetected. Without a natural gas detection system in the home or environment, the health of your human could be at risk. Whatever you do, don’t underestimate the power of natural gas.
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Ahamefula Ascension is a Real Estate Consultant, Data Analyst, and Content writer. He is the founder of Hope Ablaze Foundation and a Graduate of Environmental Management in one of the prestigious colleges in the country. He is obsessed with Reading, Research and Writing.