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Preliminary Field Studies on Worker Exposures to Volatile Chemicals during Oil and Gas Extraction Flowback and Production Testing Operations

Categories: Oil and Gas

flowbacka

Figure 1: Separators, flowback tanks, and water tanks on a well pad with multiple well heads

This blog describes NIOSH evaluations of worker exposures to specific chemicals during oil and gas extraction flowback and production testing activities. These activities occur after well stimulation and are necessary to bring the well into production. Included are descriptions of initial exposure assessments, findings, and recommendations to reduce worker exposures to potential hazards. Further details about these assessments can be read in a recently published peer-reviewed journal article, “Evaluation of Some Potential Chemical Exposure Risks during Flowback Operations in Unconventional Oil and Gas Extraction: Preliminary Results”.[i]

 

Preventing Skin Cancer

Categories: Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing, Cancer, Construction, Oil and Gas, Outdoor Work, Young Workers

sunAs the nation’s doctor, I recently launched a Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer to address the rising rates of skin cancer in the U.S. While nearly 5 million people are treated for skin cancer each year in the U.S., with an annual cost of $8.1 billion, most cases are preventable. Although people with lighter skin are at higher risk, anyone can get skin cancer—and it can be disfiguring, even deadly. Sunburned and even tanned skin is damaged skin that can lead to skin cancer. That’s why this message is extremely important for individuals whose jobs require them to work outdoors.

Reports of Worker Fatalities during Flowback Operations

Categories: Oil and Gas

Figure 1. Flowback Tanks

Although worker safety hazards in the oil and gas extraction industry are well known, there is very little published data regarding occupational health hazards (e.g., types and magnitude of risks for chemical exposures) during oil and gas extraction operations. To address the lack of information, NIOSH requests assistance from oil and gas stakeholders in further characterizing risks for chemical exposures during flowback operations and, as needed, develop and implement exposure controls. This blog briefly describes flowback operations and addresses reports made known to NIOSH of recent worker fatalities related to or located at flowback operations.

Coccidioidomycosis: An Enduring Work-Related Disease

Categories: Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing, Construction, Emergency Response/Public Sector, Oil and Gas, Outdoor Work, Personal Protective Equipment, Respiratory Health

A prison located in an arid, hyperendemic area of the Central Valley of California. There is little natural vegetation on the grounds and in the surrounding areas. Photograph by NIOSH.

Background

Coccidioidomycosis, also known as Valley Fever, is a disease caused by the fungus Coccidioides. The fungus grows in the soil in very dry areas. Coccidioidomycosis is endemic (native and common) in the southwestern United States, the Central Valley of California, Mexico, and parts of Central and South America [CDC 2013a]. About 150,000 new infections have been estimated to occur each year in the United States [Galgiani et al. 2005] but only about 22,000 cases were reported in 2011 in the United States. This suggests that the disease is greatly underreported [CDC 2013b]. The apparent incidence of reported coccidioidomycosis increased from 1998 to 2011, from 5.3 cases per 100,000 population in the endemic area (Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah) in 1998 to 42.6 cases per 100,000 in 2011, although concern has been expressed that some of this increase might be related to changes in surveillance definitions, laboratory practices, and increased awareness leading to increased testing for the disease [CDC 2013b].

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