Oil and gas drilling toxic fumes exposure may cause health risks to West Virginia Fracking workers. NIOSH is investigating back flow operations, which are believed to create toxins affecting breathing and neurological function and possibly cause heart problems.

West Virginia Natural Gas Injury Lawyer

West Virginia Natural Gas Drilling Injury Attorney

Toxic Fumes Created by Oil and Gas Drilling:

The Robinette Legal Group, PLLC is dedicated to helping those oil and gas drilling workers and their neighbors exposed to chemicals or toxic fumes created during the typical drilling process. In addition, if there is a fire or explosion, the exposure to the workers and community can be even more severe.

These toxic fumes can have a lasting impact on your health and future and can, over time, lead to breathing problems and lung disease. Therefore, it is vital for fracking workers to use all protective equipment provided by the company and to seek medical attention immediately for any injuries sustained by inhalation, including asthma symptoms.

Wastewater ponds and condensate tanks release volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can travel airborne from the site. Many of the chemicals used in fracking are known to cause cancer, and people living close to natural gas wells have higher risks of asthma, respiratory problems, and nervous system disorders. Thirty-five percent of the chemicals used in fracking are:

  • Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) alter hormonal levels.
  • Leading to health issues such as infertility.
  • Impaired neural function.
  • Suppressed immunity.
  • Low birth weight.
  • Delayed development.
  • Learning disabilities.

Recently, OSHA issued a hazard alert for all workers in the oil and gas industry. Silica is used in significant quantities in the process of hydraulic fracturing. When silica is released into the air, it can lead to silicosis, lung cancer, heart problems, and other health problems. In addition, silica exposure has been found to affect spouses exposed to clothing containing silica fibers brought home for laundering.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is currently conducting a study to evaluate the impact of chemicals used and toxins produced by the oil and gas drilling process. Potential exposures to vapors, gases, particulates, and fumes (e.g., solvents, diesel particulate, crystalline silica, acids, metals, aldehydes, and possibly other chemicals) are the focus of this study.

Though the investigations are incomplete, NIOSH has learned about several worker fatalities associated with flow-back operations. According to their information, at least four workers have died since 2010 from what appears to be acute chemical exposures during flow back operations at well sites in the Williston Basin (North Dakota and Montana). The available information suggests that these cases involved workers gauging flow back or production tanks or transferring flow back fluids at the well site. Often these fatalities occurred when the workers were performing their duties alone.

Potential Exposures during Flowback Operations

Flowback refers to process fluids from the wellbore that return to the surface and are collected after hydraulic fracturing is completed. In addition to the hydraulic fracturing fluids initially pumped, born fluids contain volatile hydrocarbons from the formation.

After separation, flow back fluids are stored temporarily in tanks or surface impoundments (lined pits, ponds) at the well site. Then, liquid hydrocarbons from the separation process are routed to production tanks. Workers periodically gauge the fluid levels in flowback and production tanks with hand-held gauges (sticks and tapes) through access hatches at the top.

Hydrogen sulfide (sour gas) is well recognized as a toxic exposure hazard associated with oil and gas extraction and production. However, less recognized by many employers and workers is that many of the chemicals found in volatile hydrocarbons are acutely toxic at high concentrations. Volatile hydrocarbons can affect the eyes, breathing, and the nervous system and, at high concentrations, may also affect the heart causing abnormal rhythms. Recently, NIOSH conducted exposure assessments to identify chemical hazards to workers involved in flowback operations.

Results from initial field studies suggest that certain flowback operations/activities can result in elevated concentrations of volatile hydrocarbons in the work environment that could be acute exposure hazards.

Inhalation injuries are serious. Workers’ Compensation may provide some remuneration for such damages. Still, suppose it can be proved that your employer deliberately placed you in harm’s way. In that case, other legal actions can be taken to gain additional Compensation to provide for your medical and future needs.

Morgantown West Virginia Gas Drilling Injury Lawyer

We have extensive experience handling gas drilling, oil field, and catastrophic injury cases throughout West Virginia. Call us at (304) 594-1800 or contact us online through the 24/7 chat line or email. We offer free initial consultations and take qualified cases on a contingency feebasis, meaning if you don’t get paid, we don’t get paid.

Robinette Legal Group PLLC 211 Everhart Dr, Ste 200 Morgantown, WV 26508 (304) 594-1800

Source: CDC Report: ”Reports of Worker Fatalities during Flowback Operations,” by John Snawder, Ph.D., May 19, 2014.

Related Articles:

Water Contamination from Fracking

Silicosis Risk for West Virginia Oil and Gas Workers

Oil Extraction in West Virginia: Benefits and Risks of Hydraulic Fracturing

Oil and Gas Well Drilling Injuries

Call us today to find out how we can help you.

case results
Our Case Results

Carbon Monoxide Death

A newly-married couple moved into a rental property late one evening, switched on the thermostat in their new apartment, and was overcome within hours by carbon monoxide from a faulty furnace pipe. One of the parties died, and several others in the same building were taken to the hospital to be treated for extreme toxic exposure. Mr. Robinette was able to obtain for two of the families a substantial settlement that far exceeded their expectations.

Sago Mine Coal Mine Explosion

In 2006, the West Virginia coalfields were devastated by the largest coal mine explosion that had occurred in decades, and our law firm successfully represented the family of one of the deceased coal miners, by obtaining a substantial settlement for our client’s family.

Power Plant Wrongful Death

A young husband and father was performing his duties as ordered, and having been put in harms’ way, was backed over by a truck and crushed. Jeff successfully represented this man’s widow and small child and obtained a substantial settlement which allowed this family to begin to put back together their broken lives.


Our Awards and Certifications

Jeffery Robinette
Jeffery Robinette
Jeffery Robinette is a West Virginia Personal Injury Lawyer based in Morgantown who represents individuals who have been seriously injured or killed due to motor vehicle collisions or catastrophic workplace accidents.
star rating
We had never met before, but he was so kind and helpful. He did an excellent job with my case.
Former Client
Wrongful Death Workplace Accident Client
He is diligent and thorough. He is also compassionate and is wise.
Former Client
Construction Legal Matter Client
I couldn’t have imagined a better outcome and I will always look to Robinette Legal Group for all my legal needs.
Injury Client
Car Accident Injury Client

Free Case Evaluation

(304) 594-1800 CALL 24/7