EARTHWORKS

Montana Health & Toxics Issues

Analysis of Oil and Gas Chemicals in Montana

The Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX) in Paonia, CO found 104 products that contain at least 85 chemicals in their recent analysis of chemicals used by the oil and gas industry in Montana. Eighty-three percent of the products have one or more adverse health effects. Of these, 17% have one to three possible health effects, and 83% have between four and fourteen possible health effects. Fourteen products have 14 adverse health effects.

Upon plotting the percent of chemicals in each health category, a pattern emerged of the possible health effects for the 85 chemicals. The four categories with the highest exposure risk are (1) eyes, skin, and sensory organs; (2) respiratory system; (3) gastrointestinal tract and liver; and (4) the cardiovascular system and blood.

Thirty-seven chemicals were water soluble. The four categories with the highest exposure risk are (1) eyes, skin, and other sensory organs: (2) gastrointestinal tract and liver; (3) respiratory system; and (4) the cardiovascular system and blood.

Thirty-eight chemicals were volatile. The four categories with the highest exposure risk are (1) respiratory system; (2) eyes, skin, and other sensory organs; (3) the brain and nervous system; and (4) the gastrointestinal tract and liver.

Several reasons led to the lack of data about the health effects of some of the products and chemicals on the spread sheet: (a) Some products list no ingredients. (b) Some products list some or all of the ingredients as "proprietary." (c) No health effect data were found for a particular chemical or product.

The products and chemicals included on this list were compiled from the Tier II reports sent to the state of Montana for the years 2005, 2006, and 2007. Tier II reports are required by the Emergency Planning and Right to Know Act to help local communities protect public health, safety, and the environment from chemical hazards. However, the oil and gas industry is exempt from this requirement. In return for this exemption industry files voluntary Tier II reports that are often "boilerplate" and do not contain all the chemicals used on a particular site.

The information contained in Tier II reports varies from state to state, and, in the case of the Montana Tier IIs, from company to company. Some companies listed all the chemicals in the products stored, though many of the ingredients were cited as proprietary, while other companies only provided a general statement of what was stored on a site, such as "surfactants" or "corrosion inhibitors." Because of the lack of specific information in many reports, the data in this analysis is likely an underestimation of what is actually in use and storage in the state of Montana.

Only 20% of the information about the composition of the products on the list comes from a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). Ingredients on MSDSs are sometimes labeled as "proprietary" or "no hazardous ingredients" even when there are significant health effects listed on the MSDS. This was the case for three of the 21 MSDSs.

Some of the citations used to establish the health effects of the chemicals on this list are old, dating back to the 1970's and 80's. In several cases data were derived from abstracts, not the full report or manuscript. In other cases, citations were taken from toxic chemical databases, such as TOXNET, Chem ID, etc. Many reports submitted to the US Environmental Protection Agency by the manufacturer to register a chemical are not accessible. In some cases it is impossible to track down any health effect for a chemical, especially when the manufacturer provides no Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) number.

No health effects were found for nine of the chemicals on the list. Of these, only 4 had been assigned a CAS number which facilitates searching the literature. We found no health related literature for these chemicals. It was impossible to determine the safety of the other 5 chemicals either because they were listed as proprietary, or "various," or no chemical was identified (4), or had chemical names that were so general that the specific chemical could not be identified (1).

Download the most recent TEDX report on chemicals from oil and gas in Montana.

Go to the TEDX website for more information.

Tagged with: public health, montana

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