L.A. Oil Companies Used 98 Million Pounds of Toxic Chemicals Since 2013

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New Report Finds Air Toxics Used Dangerously Close to Homes, Schools

LOS ANGELES— Oil companies used more than 98 million pounds of chemicals known to cause serious health problems in Los Angeles County since 2013, according to a report released today by the Stand Together Against Neighborhood Drilling - Los Angeles (STAND-L.A.) coalition. These “air toxics” were often used dangerously close to homes, hospitals and preschools.

The Danger Next Door report analyzed South Coast Air Quality Management District records dating from June 4, 2013 to Feb. 28, 2017. The analysis revealed that over 80 percent of air toxics uses involved just 12 chemicals, including carcinogens like crystalline silica and formaldehyde. Hydrochloric acid, one of the most frequently used air toxics, is a corrosive gas that can cause suffocation or irreversible lung damage at high concentrations.

“The oil industry’s massive use of air toxic chemicals threatens the lungs and lives of thousands of people in Los Angeles,” said report co-author John Fleming, a staff scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “With risks ranging from respiratory irritation to cancer, it would be irresponsible for state and local regulators to allow drilling to continue in our densely populated neighborhoods.

As of 2013 the air district requires well operators to disclose chemicals used in unconventional oil and gas recovery activities, including well-stimulation techniques like acidizing and hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”). However, because oil companies used “trade secret” protection in 21 percent of their reports, more air toxics could have been used than were disclosed.

The report further found that over 30 percent of the 1,140 well-stimulation operations using air toxics occurred within 1,500 feet of at least one hospital, preschool or residence in Los Angeles County. One well-stimulation event occurred within 12 feet of a home in the Wilmington neighborhood and another within 200 feet of a hospital in Los Angeles.

“It’s unconscionable that oil companies are using highly toxic chemicals  in L.A. neighborhoods, often just yards away from homes, schools and hospitals,” said Martha Argüello, chair of STAND-L.A. and executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility – Los Angeles. “And it’s inexcusable that oil companies continue to hide behind inadequate reporting and trade secrecy claims to keep the full scope of this danger from the public. Los Angeles officials urgently need to create buffer zones to prohibit risky neighborhood oil drilling.”

The 12 most commonly used air toxics in Los Angeles County between June 4, 2013, and Feb. 28, 2017


Rank

Chemical

CASRN**

Number of Instances Used

Total amount by mass (lbs.)

1

Crystalline Silica*

14808-60-7

3,222

46,886,251

2

Methanol

67-56-1

1,622

219,145

3

Hydrochloric Acid^

7647-01-0

1,217

20,994,937

4

Formaldehyde

50-00-0

695

79,075

5

Hydrofluoric Acid^

7664-39-3

593

10,206,305

6

Naphthalene

91-20-3

554

102,159

7

2-Butoxy Ethanol*

111-76-2

522

198,175

8

Xylene

1330-20-7

385

250,238

9

Ethylbenzene

100-41-4

370

120,512

10

Cumene

98-82-8

335

21,828

11

Aluminum Oxide*

1344-28-1

277

1,619,464

12

Glutaral/Pentanedial

111-30-8

259

290,752

13

Remaining Air Toxics#

--

1,572

17,754,394

Total

 

 

11,623

98,743,235

________________________

*Crystalline silica was also reported in the Air District dataset as cristobalite (CASRN 1446-44-61) and tridymite (CASRN 15468-32-3). Additionally, it was reported as quartz, but with the same CASRN as reporting for crystalline silica (14808-60-7). 2-butoxy ethanol was also reported as ethylene glycol monobutyl ether and glycol ether EB but with the same CASRN. Aluminum oxide was also reported as alumina but with the same CASRN.

^When reported, concentrations of hydrochloric and hydrofluoric acids ranged from 7.6-30% and 1-3%, respectively. In many instances, the concentration was not disclosed.

#Remaining air toxics includes a significant contribution from barium sulfate compounds, either barite or sulfuric acid, barium salt (1:1). These are not explicitly stated as reportable air toxics under Rule 1148.2, but barium compounds in general are listed as reportable under the rule. Barium compounds were collectively used 348 times for a total of over 16 million pounds in Los Angeles County. Barium compounds are included in the counts of air toxics, but not as part of the top 12. The same is the case for usage numbers presented for the city of Los Angeles.

**The CASRN is the Chemical Abstracts Service Registry Number that is the unique numeric identifier for that chemical substance.

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