Learn About Gas and Air Quality

Understanding the connection between burning gas and air quality is important in order to begin to combat the effects of greenhouse gases and air pollution, which refers to the release of pollutants into the air that are detrimental to human health and the planet as a whole.

Most air pollution comes from energy use and production. According to an NRDC study, air pollution from oil and gas operations, particularly Hydraulic Fracturing or “Fracking”, threatens the health of nearby communities by releasing dangerous gases and chemicals into the air. There have been 15 different oil and gas development processes and sources identified—including the drilling process, wastewater, and condensate tanks—that can release air contaminants. The rapid expansion of fracking, both in areas with existing oil and gas operations and previously undrilled areas, can lead to an increase in the type of pollution generally found at conventional oil and gas development and to other pollutants specific to fracking, such as silica sand, fracking chemicals, and flowback wastewater.

Most people are aware that outdoor air pollution can impact their health, but indoor air pollution can also have significant and harmful health effects as well. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns that “studies of human exposure to air pollutants indicate that indoor levels of pollutants may be two to five times—and occasionally more than 100 times—higher than outdoor levels.” These levels of indoor air pollutants are of particular concern, because most people spend about 90 percent of their time indoors. 

One major source of indoor air pollution, it turns out, is the familiar gas stove, which relies on the direct combustion of natural gas. Four research and advocacy groups have released a new literature review, assessing two decades worth of peer-reviewed studies. They find that “gas stoves may be exposing tens of millions of people to levels of air pollution in their homes that would be illegal outdoors under national air quality standards.”

In short, research shows that even low levels of NO2 exposure are dangerous, especially to the vulnerable. Yet the EPA’s own science shows that homes with gas stoves have around 50 percent, ranging up to over 400 percent, higher levels of NO2 than homes with electric stoves. Concentrations can often exceed US outdoor pollution standards.

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