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Industry response to radiation article misleads

Kennedy Copeland’s letter (“Oil & gas industry responds to Rolling Stone article,” Feb. 26, 2020) underestimates the risk of radiation exposure to workers in the shale gas industry.

According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, workers like those in the oil and gas industry should not be exposed to more than 100 millirems of radiation per year. However, a Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection report shows that it is quite possible for workers who are in close contact with radioactive shale gas waste, including brine and sludge, to exceed that threshold in much less than one year on the job.

For example, at certain waste treatment facilities, a worker working in proximity to the wastewater tank could exceed the NRC’s safety threshold for gamma radiation exposure within 200 hours, or 10% of a work year. Other workers at risk for exceeding the threshold include sludge truck drivers and landfill workers.

To somehow compare risk from working with massive amounts of shale gas wastewater (up to 28,500 picocuries/liter) and sludge (up to 663 picocuries/gram) every day to eating a banana (3.5 picocuries/gram) seems deliberately misleading and truly does a disservice to the hard-working men and women trying to earn a living for their families.

The industry can, and should, implement better worker protections from radioactivity, and states need to enforce these protections with clear regulations and meaningful consequences for those in violation.

Sarah Rankin, MPH, BSN, OCN

Public Health Nurse

McMurray, Pa.

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