Potential health impacts from CSG
New research has been released into the potential for coal seam gas (CSG) activity in Queensland to affect human health.
This project established processes and governance to ensure research quality, defined project boundaries, identified potential hazards and exposure pathways, and screened relevant data.
A 2,150 square kilometers study site in the Surat Basin, Queensland, was selected and factors that could lead to potential hazards such as chemicals, air emissions, noise, light and dust associated with CSG activities were identified and appraised. Existing data related to these factors was screened to determine whether any factors would require in-depth assessment.
The study found that for the majority of factors, there was no plausible pathway to impact human health. Noise and light emissions from CSG activities do not pose a hazard to physical health in the study site. Chemical factors associated with air emissions from CSG activities were within relevant health-based air quality objectives.
Of the 97 unique chemical factors used in CSG drilling and hydraulic fracturing operations:
- 72 were assessed and found to have low hazard potential to human health at the study site.
- 25 chemical factors (in eight groups) warrant further in-depth assessment. Based on the available evidence, none of these chemicals were found to represent an acute hazard to human health in the study site.
- A CSIRO extension study examined the microbial degradation of these groups of chemical factors in soil and aquifer samples and found that four chemical groups degraded readily in soils within days, and more slowly in aquifer samples.
In response to this study two new CSIRO research projects are underway and will conduct further in-depth studies focussing on these eight groups of chemical factors.
One of the newly approved studies – Exposure assessment of identified chemicals used in CSG activities – will examine the seven chemical groups that have a potential pathway to affect human health via soils and groundwater. The other study – Analysis of dust near CSG sites to assess potential for respirable crystalline silica – will focus on the eighth chemical factor, silica dust, which has a potential airborne pathway to affect human health. Both new studies will involve comprehensive field sampling campaigns.