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Is It Dangerous to Live Near an Oil Refinery?

Posted on August 31, 2022

Various studies have demonstrated a correlation between proximity to oil refineries and higher rates of health problems. As a result, it can be considered dangerous to live near an oil refinery.

Medical Concerns

Many who live in close proximity to an oil refinery report watery eyes, scratchy throats, or strong odors that force them inside. However, a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that residents living within 30 miles of a refinery were more prone to cancer, including bladder, breast, colon, lung, lymphoma, and prostate. This data was based on cancer cases and census data in Texas from 2001 to 2014. Researchers also reported that residents within 10 miles of the refinery were more likely to have advanced disease or metastatic cancer, which means the cancer has spread from where it started to a distant part of the body. 

Other research shows that people consistently exposed to harmful pollution are at greater risk of preterm births, asthma, and respiratory disease. In some cases, the long-term effects of living near a refinery closely resemble the damage caused by secondhand smoke or living beside a freeway. For example, sulfur dioxide is a common byproduct from oil refineries that can negatively affect the health of young children or unborn babies (ATSDR, 1998). It is a colorless gas with a strong odor that is released in the air when oil or coal is burned. Sulfur dioxide can be responsible for burning of the nose and throat, being unable to take full breaths, and causing or worsening asthma in both adults and children. However, children may suffer from higher exposure rates due to their need to breathe more air for their body weight compared to adults. Studies have also found a relationship between exposure to sulfur dioxide and lower birth weights in infants.

Explosion Accidents

In addition to the risks of daily exposure, a sudden event such as a refinery explosion or leak can be catastrophic. Oil and gas are highly flammable, and even one spark is enough to cause an explosion. Depending on the chemical used by the refinery, some are more dangerous than others when higher concentrations are released in the air. For example, hydrofluoric acid could potentially kill people if released in an explosion. In addition, surrounding residents may be forced to evacuate due to the chemicals released or black smoke caused by a fire. 

Oil Spills

Oil spills happen at high rates, including surface oil spills that leave a visible trace and underground spills that can be more problematic. Whichever type, oil spills can potentially contaminate soil, sediment, water (groundwater and bodies of water), and the air. People who live close to where an oil spill occurs can come into contact with the contaminant, for instance, by breathing in the polluted air, eating contaminated food, swimming in contaminated water, or walking in a contaminated area (e.g., beach). 

Oil Refinery Injury Cases

If you or a loved one has suffered an illness or injury caused by a nearby oil refinery, you may have legal options. These claims are complex, but with our resources and experience, it is possible to create a compelling case against the responsible parties. If successful, you may be entitled to compensation for your current and future medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and more. Speak to a Waco oil field accident lawyer in a free consultation today.