May 12, 2010
Biological test results from a Texas Department of State Health Services
investigation in Dish, Texas, indicate that residents' exposure to certain
contaminants was not greater than that of the general U.S. population.
In response to community concerns about potential health effects of natural
gas drilling, DSHS collected biological samples from 28 Dish residents in late
January to determine whether the levels of Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs,
in their blood were higher than those measured in the broader population.
“In Dish, we found no pattern to our test results indicating community-wide
exposure to any of these contaminants,” said Dr. Carrie Bradford, the DSHS
toxicologist who led the investigation. “We were looking to see whether a single
contaminant or a handful of contaminants were notably elevated in many or all of
the people we tested. We didn't find that pattern in Dish.”
DSHS paid particular attention to benzene because of its association with
natural gas wells. The only residents who had higher levels of benzene in their
blood were smokers. Because cigarette smoke contains benzene, finding it in
smokers' blood is not unusual.
Some residents had test results that were at or below expected levels for
various VOCs. Others had results that were slightly higher than the levels found
in the U.S. population data. However, the type of slightly elevated VOC varied
considerably from individual to individual, indicating no particular pattern.
Many of these compounds are found in a wide array of commonly used products.
While the purpose of this investigation was to determine whether people were
being exposed to specific contaminants, it does not determine specific exposure
sources, nor does it provide an assessment of possible long-term exposures.
DSHS health officials will have a community meeting to discuss these results
at the Dish town hall from 7 to 8:30 p.m. May 18. They also will be available
from 5 to 6:30 p.m. to speak with residents. The full Dish exposure
investigation report can be found at www.dshs.state.tx.us/epitox/assess.shtm.
(News Media Contact: Allison Lowery, DSHS
Assistant Press Officer, 512-458-7753.)
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