Another study adds to the growing data indicating a link between autism and mercury, diesel particulates, and lead. The latest study comes from Harvard University's School of Public Health. It finds that children exposed to high levels of air pollutants are twice to have autism than those living in low pollution areas.
Unless modern pollution controls are used, burning coal releases large amounts of mercury and soot as well as other toxic metals like arsenic and lead. Burning oil or diesel without top pollution controls also releases a variety of air pollutants, including soot or particles.
Unlike coal or oil, natural gas releases no toxic metals into the air and virtually no soot. This is a substantial public health and environmental advantage of gas over both coal and oil. And the displacement of coal and oil/diesel by natural gas is helping to lower the amounts of mercury and diesel particulates in most but not all communities.
Though gas itself is clean burning and does not emit the pollutants that are increasingly linked to autism and to other illnesses and causes of premature death, the production of gas often involves burning large amounts of diesel. The result can be significant new sources of diesel particulates in communities that previously had little.
Most gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing rigs run on diesel. Most trucking involved in the industry runs on diesel. Most compressor stations run on diesel. But they need not.
Natural gas or electricity can be used to power drilling rigs, hydraulic fracturing pumps, trucks, and drilling stations. The gas industry should dump diesel and switch to gas or electricity in all parts of the production process. If diesel is still used, regulations must require the use of modern pollution controls that can slash by as much as 90% emissions from compressor stations and drilling rigs.