Porter Ranch residents who were exposed to the Aliso Canyon gas leak have been found to have high levels of uranium, lithium and styrene, a derivative of benzene, in their systems.
The toxic levels in their systems were found by urine and hair samples taken from the residents, who live near the site of the gas leak. An estimated 100,000 metric tons of methane gushed from an aged well just above Porter Ranch in January 2016. The well was operated by Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas).
According to Los Angeles Daily News, the leak left thousands of nearby residents sick and forced them from their homes. Even after returning, the possibility of lingering contamination has been a concern.
Dr. Jeffrey Nordella, a doctor who practiced in Porter Ranch, told the News he has conducted an independent study on the health of the residents when he started seeing a pattern of symptoms among his patients. His tests began when the leak was capped in February 2016, and concluded this year.
While urine samples were used for detecting elevated levels of styrene and ethylbenzene, hair samples were used for detecting high levels of uranium and lithium. Nordella gathered his findings into a report, which he presented at Hilton Hotel in Woodland Hills, at an event that drew more than 300 people.
Nordella’s findings include:
- 31 percent of the 106 urine samples tested positive for higher-than-average levels of styrene.
- Of the 51 patients whose health Nordella followed, 34 percent experienced nosebleeds. Of the 72 patients whose health Nordella followed after the leak was capped, 31 percent experienced nosebleeds.
- Lithium was detected in the water of 26 nearby homes who used the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) water supply (none was found in non-LADWP water).
Although uranium can be naturally occurring in hair samples, Nordella compared the levels to those of other California averages.
“You are different,” Nordella said to the attendees.
Nordella was critical of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health for not pushing for toxicology tests.
State Sen. Henry Stern, who spoke at the event, told attendees that Aliso Canyon should have never been allowed to reopen.
“Gov. Brown has all the authority he needs to shut down the facility now,” Stern said. “He should shut down Aliso Canyon now and forever. The fact is, we don’t know what chemicals were released in that leak.”
Nordella hopes the results will spur continued testing for toxic exposure for Porter Ranch residents as well as those in San Fernando Valley.
“As a treating physician,” Nordella said, “I am concerned about disclosure. There is an abundance of information to strongly support the need for a comprehensive, independent, long-term health study from toxin exposures of the SS-25 well blow out. Otherwise, it is scientifically irresponsible to ignore the facts and allow the continued operation of Aliso Canyon Gas Storage Field.”