Ambient Nonmethane Hydrocarbon Levels Along Colorado's Northern Front Range: Acute and Chronic Health Risks

Environ Sci Technol. 2018 Apr 17;52(8):4514-4525. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.7b05983. Epub 2018 Apr 9.


Oil and gas (O&G) facilities emit air pollutants that are potentially a major health risk for nearby populations. We characterized prenatal through adult health risks for acute (1 h) and chronic (30 year) residential inhalation exposure scenarios to nonmethane hydrocarbons (NMHCs) for these populations. We used ambient air sample results to estimate and compare risks for four residential scenarios. We found that air pollutant concentrations increased with proximity to an O&G facility, as did health risks. Acute hazard indices for neurological (18), hematological (15), and developmental (15) health effects indicate that populations living within 152 m of an O&G facility could experience these health effects from inhalation exposures to benzene and alkanes. Lifetime excess cancer risks exceeded 1 in a million for all scenarios. The cancer risk estimate of 8.3 per 10 000 for populations living within 152 m of an O&G facility exceeded the United States Environmental Protection Agency's 1 in 10 000 upper threshold. These findings indicate that state and federal regulatory policies may not be protective of health for populations residing near O&G facilities. Health risk assessment results can be used for informing policies and studies aimed at reducing and understanding health effects associated with air pollutants emitted from O&G facilities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air Pollutants*
  • Colorado
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons
  • Inhalation Exposure
  • Risk Assessment
  • United States
  • United States Environmental Protection Agency


  • Air Pollutants
  • Hydrocarbons