Health Impacts of Natural Gas Compressor Stations

The most common complaints of residents living near pipeline compressors include:

  • Skin rash or irritation

  • Eye irritation 

  • Gastrointestinal problems such as pain, nausea, vomiting 

  • Respiratory problems including difficulty breathing, cough, congestion, sore throat and nosebleeds 

  • Neurological problems such as headaches, dizziness 

  • Psychological problems such as anxiety, depression, stress, irritability 

Possible long-term health consequences from living near a natural gas pipeline compressor station include:

  • Cardiovascular issues such as heart attack and high blood pressure 

  • Respiratory issues such as exacerbation of asthma, COPD 

  • Neurological issues such as stroke and cognitive deficits in children 

  • Birth defects 

  • Cancer 

  • Premature mortality 

​Nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO) and particulate matter (PM) are all major components of compressor station emissions and are known to cause significant health effects in exposed populations. Many other chemicals have been found to be associated with the operation of compressor stations that have the potential to impact human health. Included are cancer-causing benzene, formaldehyde and other benzene-like chemicals known to impact the nervous system. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are toxins to the nervous and reproductive systems. They can also cause birth defects. Long term exposure is linked to cancer. Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) is associated with respiratory illness. At high exposure levels, sulfur dioxide can cause temporary breathing difficulty for people with asthma and long-term exposure to high levels can aggravate cardiovascular diseases. In addition to the above, literal tons of pollutants could seep into the soil and the regional watersheds.

Additional Information and Resources

Health Impacts of Gas Infrastructure-Dyrszka (pdf)
Health Effects Compressor Stations-RussoCarpenter (pdf)
Summary of Compressor Station Emissions and Health Impacts-EHP (pdf)

In 2015 the American Medical Association (AMA) adopted a resolution, “Protecting Public Health from Natural Gas Infrastructure,” that states, “Our AMA recognizes the potential impact on human health associated with natural gas infrastructure and supports legislation that would require a comprehensive Health Impact Assessment regarding the health risks that may be associated with natural gas pipelines.” No health impact assessment has been prepared for the Charles Station compressor station.

As natural gas infrastructure grows and the health consequences, denied by energy companies, become more widely recognized, comparisons with the tobacco industry of the past will be evident. The health impacts of residing near pipeline compressor stations are far ranging, from chemical exposures to mental health impacts and greater community stress. Some studies report 90% of individuals living and working within 2-3 miles of compressor stations report experiencing health impacts.

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