Weld County, Colorado produces 90 percent of the state’s oil. Despite all of this oil production, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has not seen any indication that the general health of this community has been affected by this work.
“I’m not going to tell anybody to go drink a pint of liquid petroleum or stand over an active well site and wave the fumes in to breath them in,” executive director and chief medical officer for the health department, Dr. Larry Wolk explained. “Nobody would argue that this stuff isn’t toxic, but it’s all about exposure to toxins, and we don’t see anything to be concerned with at this point in time.”
Currently, Weld County is home to 22,088 active oil wells, compared to the 52 active wells in Denver County. However, the cancer rate in both counties shows no serious cause for concern, as percentages are fairly equal across the board. Additionally, low birth weight, infant mortality, and birth defects rates in Denver County are higher than in Weld County. Regarding this data, Wolk detailed, “We want to make sure that we stay very much objective and neutral and just report the facts.” He went on to further comment that it was important to his department that political issues were not considered when reviewing this data, and that analysis was completed impartially.
Wolk’s claims have been further supported by the executive direction of Fostering Unity and Energizing Leadership, Bill Jerke. “We’ve had at least 10,000 wells or more in Weld County for about 30 years or more and with that number of wells, we clearly have been the canary in the mine,” Jerke commented. “It’s obvious that there would be health effects if indeed oil and gas was causing health issues that would take us out of the normal range. If it was going to be a problem, it should have shown up long ago, but it hasn’t.”
As naysayers continue to place the blame on the oil and gas industry for an array of issues, ranging from health concerns to environmental problems, research demonstrates that these accusations are unwarranted. Just last month, the Environmental Protection Agency rejected its own study about fracking contaminating groundwater, citing concerns that the research was “lacking.”
The new data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reveals how safe oil and gas extraction has no effect on the wellbeing of local communities. As the state continues to monitor the industry, more information will show how responsible oil and gas businesses are truly a boon to their immediate areas, bolstering the economy and providing employment opportunities without causing widespread health issues.