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Residents Of Gas Patch In Colorado Suffering In Silence

So far it is an insurmountable wall they have come across, feel residents of the west Garfield County, near Silt, Colorado, where hundreds of wells are dug up everyday, in the search of natural gas. Indeed this area is a treasure trove for natural gas investors- but sadly, the lure of big bucks blinds them to the repercussions of their hunt.

Residents have complained of headaches, skin irritation, nausea and dizziness from breathing noxious fumes that emanate from the rigs. Yet, their complaints that the fumes are causing illness do not elicit any action, simply because there's no medical data to back it up.

Says Garfield County environmental health manager Jim Rada: I don't know that we can do anything about health effects caused by oil and gas operations, except advise them to see a physician. "One of the problems is when people call they generally don't have any medical information to support their claims."

At the same time, Garfield County is sponsoring a health-risk study to determine if oil and gas activity is linked to serious health problems. Project director Teresa Coons, from Grand Junction-based Saccomano Research Institute, has said that it is difficult to link health problems with single causes. According to her, "not everyone is equally susceptible to toxic material exposure."

Nationally famed biochemical researcher Theo Colborn, has investigated chemicals used in the oil and gas industry and found 245 compounds that can cause skin, nerve and stomach problems. "I've visited with people with health problems, and we're beginning to see patterns," she says. "Our concern is, if this stuff gets into our drinking water you can't get it out and it will get into our homes."

Yet, there have been some improvements after neighbors in these areas banded together to demand the gas operators take steps to minimize the impacts. More recently, a series of bills aimed at reforming oil and gas activity
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