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Air Pollution and Covid-19: A Dangerous Combination

Does living near active oil and gas wells increase rates of COVID-19 infection and death? PSR explores this chilling possibility in a new white paper, Air Pollution and COVID-19: A Dangerous Combination.

The report examines five counties in Colorado and five in New Mexico, each with high levels of oil and gas activity. Among its most impactful findings:

  • In Colorado, more COVID-19 deaths were observed than expected in three counties that experienced high levels of oil and gas development in 2020.
  • In New Mexico, disproportionately high numbers of cases were observed among people aged 20-49 years and Native Americans. Death rates, however, from COVID-19 were higher than expected in only one county.

Given these mixed findings, the report drew no firm conclusions and called for further research.

PSR sent the report to President Biden, accompanied by a letter urging him to take the report’s cautionary findings into account in pursuing further controls on oil and gas extraction. Most immediately, PSR recommended that the president make permanent the “pause” he established on oil and gas leasing on federal lands.

The report was authored by Ned Ketyer, MD, a pediatrician and member of the board of PSR/Pennsylvania, and Lisa McKenzie, PhD MPH, a well-known researcher on the health effects of fracking.

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