Health Risks Caused by Living Close to an Oil Refinery

Oil Refinery

Oil Refinery convert crude oil, coal and natural gases into fuel. Unfortunately, these refineries release toxins into the environment that can lead to numerous serious medical conditions. They pollute the air from the stacks as well as from leaking equipment. It is said that leaking or faulty equipment provides more air pollution than what is released from the stacks. They pollute the land by dumping harmful waste bi-products, and water is polluted from the fallout from the air pollution and from discharging chemical pollutants into waterways. Groundwater and open waterways are further polluted by accidental oil spills.

Pollution Increases Risk of Disorders and Diseases

Unfortunately, accidental fires, oil spills, explosions and chemical gas leaks are common at refineries and these result in higher than usual amounts of pollution. This, in turn, results in more acute exposure leading to greater health impacts. Companies that own oil refineries need to be dedicated to preserving the environment and should have measures in place to minimize pollution wherever possible. Wastewater contaminants can be minimized by oil water separators and refineries should be required to measure harmful air pollution as it enters the local community’s air under fence line monitoring.

Young children and the elderly are the most at risk when living close to an oil refinery. Living within thirty miles of a refinery is associated with an increased risk of health-related complications such as respiratory problems, reproductive health problems and cancer of all types. The closer a person lives to the refinery, the proportionately higher the risk. Sadly, most people are not aware of the dangers and the situation is often underreported.

Common Types of Emissions

Emissions include a toxic mixture of carcinogens, neurotoxins and hazardous metals. Sulphur dioxide is a common bi-product that is a colorless gas with a strong rotten egg smell. This gas is linked to lung diseases and asthma as well as reproductive problems whereby babies have a lower birth weight and birth defects.

Benzene is a harmful carcinogen that is released into the atmosphere when coal and oil are burned. It usually leaves the body via urine within forty-eight hours but can harm cell processes. It prevents bone marrow from producing sufficient red blood cells, damages the immune system and increases the risk of infections. In unborn babies, it is linked to blood and tissue disorders, and it can result in leukemia in young children.

Lead is another emission from oil refineries that causes behavior and learning problems in children as well as a lower IQ, hearing problems and anemia.

Other Symptoms Experienced

Respiratory problems are common in people living close to an oil refinery. These include asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, chest pains and choking. Blurred vision, watery eyes, headaches and hallucinations are further effects of over-exposure to these harmful emissions from oil refineries. Further symptoms include nose bleeds, ear infections, and an increased risk of TB, digestive problems, and damage to internal organs, menstrual problems including miscarriages and stillbirths, and skin rashes.

Sadly, communities that live extremely close to oil refineries often live below the poverty line and cannot afford to simply move away from the area. However, the health risks they face are extensive and critical.