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West Virginia Natural Gas Injury and Death Lawyer – Robinette Legal Group, PLLC

Oil and gas drilling toxic fumes exposure may cause health risks to West Virginia Fracking workers. NIOSH is investigating flowback operations which are believed to create toxins affecting breathing, 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 who have been exposed to chemicals or toxic fumes created during the normal drilling process.  If there is a fire or explosion, the exposure to the workers and community can be even more serious.

These toxic fumes can have a lasting impact on your health and future, and can over time lead to breathing problems and lung disease.  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 disorders of the nervous system.  Thirty-five percent of the chemicals used in fracking are endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that alter hormonal levels which can lead to health issues such as infertility, impaired neural function, suppressed immunity, low birth weight, delayed development, and learning disabilities.

Recently, OSHA issued a hazard alert for all workers in the oil and gas industry.  Silica is used in great quantities in the process of hydraulic fracturing, and when silica is released into the air it can lead to silicosis, lung cancer, heart problems, and other health problems.  Silica exposure even has been found to affect spouses who are exposed to clothing containing silica fibers which are 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 not complete, NIOSH has learned about several worker fatalities associated with flowback operations. According to their information, at least four workers have died since 2010 from what appears to be acute chemical exposures during flowback operations at well sites in the Williston Basin (North Dakota and Montana). The available information suggests that these cases involved workers who were gauging flowback or production tanks or involved in transferring flowback 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 originally pumped, returned fluids contain volatile hydrocarbons from the formation. After separation, flowback fluids are typically stored temporarily in tanks or surface impoundments (lined pits, ponds) at the well site. 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 located on the top of the tank.

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 injuries, but if it can be proved that your employer deliberately placed you in harm’s way, 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 fee basis, 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