Single Session

[Schedule Grid]

MAM-F - Radon in the Oil and Gas Industry Part 1

Baltimore 3   10:00 - 11:45

Chair(s): Phil Egidi
MAM-F.1   10:00  Special Session on Radon in Oil and Gas operations HB Okyar*, IAEA ; AS Rood, KSpar; DJ Allard, SE Compact; A McArthur, Consultant; P Koutrakis, Harvard; L Longxian, Harvard

Abstract: This special session will focus on releases of radon and its decay products from the contemporary oil and gas industry. With the advent of unconventional drilling, concern is being raised about the cumulative impacts from leaks of radon and its decay products from oil and gas activities. Wells are now placed much more densely, with up to 20 wells on a single pad. The ICRP currently does not even have a definition of these multiple industrial sources or detailed advice on how to characterize them. Short-lived radon decay products are the subject of most studies due to their potential hazard, while the long-lived decay products have been largely ignored. However, recent studies have shown long-lived particulate radioactivity (Pb-210/Po-210) from large well clusters are generating enough activity to be detected many kilometers downwind. It is postulated that the toxicity of soot (PM 2.5) is increased due to the long-lived particulates attaching to the soot aerosols. Leaks from oil and gas sites are intermittent (we all hope) and as such makes characterization over space and time difficult. The lack of specific federal regulation over TENORM emissions (i.e., there is no NESHAP for radioactivity from oil and gas) creates a situation where states must take their own initiatives. In addition to emissions, it has also become apparent that some residuals from oil and gas operations have not been adequately considered for their radiological hazard, pigging wastes being the prime example.

MAM-F.2   10:05  Assessing Exposures and Health Effects of Particle Radioactivity: An Emerging Research Field P Koutrakis*, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Abstract: The recent Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study estimated that long-term exposure to fine particulates (PM2.5) caused 9 million deaths worldwide in 2019, making it the fourth-ranked global risk factor for that year. The PM properties responsible for its toxicity are still not fully understood. Recently, we found that radon (Rn) exposure is associated with mortality in the Northeastern U.S., and we have reported associations between PM gross β-activity and blood pressure, oxidative stress, and lung and cardiac function. A large fraction of the total exposure to naturally occurring ionizing radiation is through inhalation of ambient particles carrying attached radionuclides. The primary source of this PM radioactivity (PR) is Radon (Rn) gas through its decay products. Rn emanates from the soil and enters the atmosphere, including indoor air, where it decays. The resulting radionuclides attach to inhalable PM, which deposit in the lungs and continue to release ionizing radiation (α-, β- and γ-radiation) causing pulmonary inflammation and oxidative stress. To date, most previous environmental radiation studies have focused on the cancer effects of Rn progeny, therefore, there are significant knowledge gaps regarding the non-cancer effects of radon and PR. Our recent research has demonstrated that these non-cancer effects are, in fact, very important. Specifically, we have generated new information showing that exposures to Rn as well as PM gross α-, β- and γ-activities are associated with numerous adverse health outcomes, including blood pressure, oxidative stress, cardiac, lung and liver function, gestational diabetes and hypertension, and total and cardiopulmonary mortality. These observations provide strong scientific evidence for our hypothesis that inhaled Rn progeny and other radionuclides, measured as PR, can have direct health effects through stimulation of inflammatory and oxidative processes. Therefore, assessing exposures and effects of PR may be of paramount importance to understanding of particle toxicity. During my presentations I will summarize many PR studies regarding measurement methods, sources, relationships between indoor and outdoor levels and, toxicity assays. Also, I will present results from cohort studies examining a large spectrum of health outcomes and population mortality studies. Finally, I will discuss research needs to advance this emerging research area.

MAM-F.3   11:05  Unconventional Oil and Gas Development and Ambient Particle Radioactivity L Li*, Harvard University ; AJ Blomberg, Harvard University; BA Coull, Harvard University; JD Spengler, Harvard University; JD Schwartz, Harvard University; P Koutrakis, Harvard University

Abstract: Unconventional oil and natural gas development (UOGD) expanded extensively in the United States from the early 2000s. However, the influence of UOGD on the radioactivity of ambient particulate is not well understood. We collected the ambient particle radioactivity (PR) measurements of RadNet, a nationwide environmental radiation monitoring network. We obtained the information of over 1.5 million wells from the Enverus database. We investigated the association between the upwind UOGD well count and the downwind gross-beta radiation with adjustment for environmental factors governing the natural emission and transport of radioactivity. Our statistical analysis found that an additional 100 upwind UOGD wells within 20 km is associated with an increase of 0.024 mBq/m3 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.020, 0.028 mBq/m3) in the gross-beta particle radiation downwind. Based on the published health analysis of PR, the widespread UOGD could induce adverse health effects to residents living close to UOGD by elevating PR.

MAM-F.4   11:25  Impact of Radon Exposures on Non-Cancer Outcomes and Future Perspectives CL Zilli Vieira*, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health ; P Koutrakis, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Abstract: Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas formed from the decay of primordial radionuclides (Uranium and Thorium) in the Earth's crust. It infiltrates into homes from soil, water, and construction materials. Indoor radon is one of the leading cause of lung cancer. Our recent studies have showed short- and middle-term exposures to indoor radon are also related to increased risk of cardiovascular, pregnancy and respiratory morbidity and mortality. These findings bring a new direction for radon exposures and health outcomes studies. In this overview, we will present our most recent studies on radon exposures and non-cancer outcomes, describing from biological mechanisms to future directions for public health policies.

[back to schedule]