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Colorado Report Finds Low Risk of Health Effects

In February 2017, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issued an “Assessment of Potential Public Health Effects from Oil and Gas Operations in Colorado.” The Health Assessment Report concluded that, based on currently available air monitoring data, “the risk of harmful health effects is low for residents living near oil and gas operations.” Moreover, the assessment found that studies of populations living near oil and gas operations provide only “limited evidence of the possibility for harmful health effects,” which would need to be confirmed or disputed with “higher quality studies.”

According to the executive summary accompanying the assessment, the assessment was undertaken in response to published papers that have outlined “the potential chemical and non-chemical hazards from oil and gas operations.” The assessment notes that studies evaluating the relationship between living near oil and natural gas operations and the potential for certain adverse health effects have been widely publicized and have “led to heightened public and policy-maker concerns about whether or not harmful health effects occur in people living near oil and gas operations.” As these studies continue to develop, oil and natural gas operators may see an uptick in resident concerns regarding the alleged health effects of unconventional development. However, as the Colorado assessment makes clear, thus far the published literature has not provided concrete evidence that unconventional development is related to negative health outcomes.