By Rick Steelhammer, Staff Writer for the Gazette-Mail

Two national environmental groups have released a new analysis of Environmental Protection Agency data on oil and gas industry air pollution and an accompanying interactive map showing associated health risks that place West Virginia among states with the most elevated cancer and respiratory health threats.

The analysis was produced by the Clean Air Task Force, a Boston-based nonprofit focusing on reducing air pollution through research, advocacy and private sector partnerships. The interactive map, which includes oil and gas production activity and public health data for every oil and gas-producing county in the nation, was released by Earthworks, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., that "stands for clean water, air and land, healthy communities and corporate responsibility," according to its website.

According to a press release announcing the new analysis and map, the project was launched in response to the fact that "the oil and gas industry is the country's largest and fastest-growing source of methane emissions," as well as hazardous pollutants like benzene and formaldehyde.

"That toxic pollution presents significant cancer and respiratory health risks, underscoring the need for the EPA to clean up existing sources of toxic air pollution without delay," the release states.

According to the Earthworks report, 238 U.S. oil and gas-producing counties, including 18 in West Virginia, face a cancer risk from exposure to gas and oil production pollutants that exceeds the EPA's one-per-million "level of concern" threshold. Of those counties, 41 face a cancer risk above 1 in 250,000, including 10 West Virginia counties — Calhoun, Doddridge, Gilmer, Harrison, Lewis, Lincoln, Mingo, Ritchie, Tyler and Wetzel.

An additional 32 counties nationwide face respiratory health risks that surpass the EPA's level of concern standard. Six West Virginia counties — Calhoun, Doddridge, Gilmer, Lewis, Mingo and Ritchie — fall into that category, according to the report.

READ ENTIRE STORY WITH MAP: New Map, Analysis Chart Health Risks From Oil And Gas Pollution By Rick Steelhammer, Staff Writer for the Gazette-Mail

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