Study documents huge health impacts of “natural” gas pollution

June 13, 2023


Gas Leaks



No matter what the fossil fuel industry claims in its advertising, “natural” gas is anything but “clean.” A new study shows that pollution from oil and gas is a shockingly large contributor to asthma, respiratory disease and other health harms.

Researchers at Boston University and University of North Carolina found that nitrogen oxide, fine particulate matter and ozone pollution from oil and gas does an immense amount of damage. In 2016 alone, it contributed to:

  • 7,500 deaths
  • 410,000 asthma attacks
  • 2,200 new cases of childhood asthma
  • $77 billion in annual additional costs to the healthcare system

The study found that these impacts were especially felt in states with large amounts of oil and gas extraction, like Texas, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. Previous studies have shown that air pollution from fracking — now the primary method for extracting oil and gas — is linked to premature births, heart disease and cancers like leukemia.


But the harms are not limited to communities near where oil and gas is produced. The study found that states like New York and Illinois — which have little to no oil and gas drilling — also saw health impacts. Densely populated cities such as Chicago, New York, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. all saw elevated levels of asthma from oil and gas pollution.

“These substantial impacts from oil and gas production show that there are serious consequences across the full life cycle of oil and gas, from ‘well to wheels,’ ‘well to power plant,’ and ‘well to furnace,’” said Jonathan Buonocore, assistant professor of environmental health at Boston University. “The health impacts are not just from the combustion of oil and gas. In order for energy, air quality, and decarbonization policies to successfully protect health, they need to incorporate health impacts across this full life cycle.”



Despite these shocking findings, the fossil fuel industry continues to build out gas projects that will be polluting the air and harming public health for decades to come. New export facilities, new gas plants for electricity, new pipelines and new homes with gas appliances all continue to be built at an alarming rate.



As long as we continue to rely on fossil fuels like gas, innocent people across the country will continue to suffer grave impacts to their health. It’s time to stop the buildout of gas and transition urgently to clean electricity like wind and solar that protects our access to clean air.




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