Pollution from Oil refineries:
Oil refineries pollute our air, water, and land. Oil refineries cause smog and air pollution. Almost all refineries in every country currently pollute at unacceptable, unhealthy levels. Oil refineries emit about 100 chemicals everyday. These include metals like lead which makes it hard for children to learn. They also include very smaller size dust particles that get deep into our lungs and harm our ability to breathe. Finally, refineries emit many gases like sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxide (NO2), carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane, dioxins, hydrogen fluoride, chlorine, benzene and others.
Many of the gases emitted by refineries are harmful to humans, and can cause permanent damage and even death. They can cause respiratory problems (such as asthma, coughing, chest pain, choking, bronchitis), skin irritations, nausea, eye problems, headaches, birth defects, leukemia, and cancers. Young children and the elderly are the worst affected.
Sulfur dioxide (SO2): Crude oil and coal both contain relatively high quantities of sulfur. (Natural gases contain much less sulfur and therefore are safer.) When crude oil or coal is heated at the refinery to produce fuel, the sulfur is converted into a gas called sulfur dioxide. This is a colourless gas with a very strong smell, like rotten eggs.
Bad effects of Sulfur dioxide: Exposure to very high concentrations of SO2 can result in painful irritation of the eyes, nose, mouth and throat, difficulty in breathing, nausea, vomiting, headaches and even death. Some of the health effects from daily exposure to outdoor levels of SO2 are tight chests, worsening of asthma and lung disease, and narrowing of air passages in the throat and chest. People with asthma are more sensitive to SO2. Exposure to SO2 can provoke asthma attacks. SO2 mixes easily in water, including moisture in the air to form an acid. Acid rain and early morning dew causes much damage to metals, stones, and the environment.
Fugitive emissions are the air pollution which escapes through leaks in the equipment. Very often the amount of pollution coming from fugitive emissions is higher than the amount coming out of the stacks.
Many of the refineries often use low quality crude oil that has high levels of sulfur. When this is refined it produces higher levels of SO2 pollution.
Accidental fires, explosions, and chemical and gas leaks are common at refineries. Such accidents cause higher than usual amounts of pollution, which may result in more acute exposure to pollutants and greater health impacts.