Gas Pipeline Safety
How Damaging is Gas for our Health?
Why cook with a wood stove? Put simply, wood is very good for
our health and environment. When we cook with a gas stove, toxic
gases like carbon monoxide (CO.), carbon dioxide (CO2), sulfur
oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and all other irritating compounds
remain in the kitchen and are therefore inhaled. As a result researchers
have discovered that those who cook with gas tend to suffer from
irritability, nausea, fatigue, depression, dizziness, headaches,
fainting, confusion, asthma, respiratory illness, drowsiness and
In fact, it is so bad that some researchers compare some
of its effects to asbestos and cigarette smoke. A wood stove however,
having a flue, takes the wood emissions outside and in the process
constantly replenishes the kitchen with fresh, clean air, through
the windows, doors or any other gaps, without people even realising
it. Thus, those who cook with wood feel and fair better health
wise. Wood emissions are part of the natural cycle and are food
for the plants; plants need them in order to emit oxygen, thus
a balancing or an equalising takes place, hence scientists class
wood as pollution free
By using wood we simply recycle what nature has provided. Strictly
speaking our environment will not function correctly without wood
fires, as they are part of the atmospheric biodiversity and help
keep the gaseous equilibrium. In fact, wood fires when meaningful
are crucial to the well being of the environment and often occur
spontaneously by lightening. In essence, no clouds - no rain,
no wood smoke - less oxygen, as wood emissions are a precursor
and a vital prerequisite to oxygen - by photosynthesis.
Yes, trees are a source of clean air for man and plants whether
used or standing. Frankly, we can’t afford not to use wood the
alternative is catastrophic! The issue is not whether gas is better
than oil or coal but whether gas is: 1) renewable, 2) pollution
neutral, safe for our health, 4) safe for our environment, 5)sustainable
and 6) as clean as wood. Gas meets none of the above criteria
By switching from electric to gas we are exchanging one pollution
for another. We bring an outside gas pollution inside our kitchen
- with adverse consequences to our health.
For example, oil is cleaner than coal but this does not mean oil
is clean. Similarly, gas is better than electricity but this does
not make gas a clean fuel. By promoting gas we simply promote
more pollution and ill health. Our approach should always consider
the total environmental and health effects that is from exploration
and production right to when it is used in our kitchens. That
is where the wood stove excels! Think of it! Wood is located above
ground; fossil fuels are below ground, as a result they create
billions of tons of pollution when excavated, refined and used.
Exactly how polluting is Western Australia’s North West Shelf
gas project? “The Environmental Protection Authority’s report
on the project found it would emit 5.5 million tonnes of carbon
dioxide into the atmosphere each year - increasing WA’s total
emissions by 13 per cent and Australia’s total by 1.4 per cent.
The EPA also found the potential environmental impact of the project
was considerable.” "The West Australian Newspapers 21/09/2002"
This may well be on the conservative side.
Right now in Western Australia, there are five gas projects in
various stages of planing. Multiply the above levels of pollution
by 5 times (depending on size) and the pollution would be about
75% greater. If the same happens in other states, let alone in
other countries, the pollution would be catastrophically ruinous.
No wonder 2002 was one of the hottest years on record. How can
gas be clean when it often comes from the same deep hole as petrol?
By contrast, there is not a gram of pollution when the sun creates
the wood. Nor is there long term or lasting pollution when the
wood is burnt, as plants reabsorb the smoke. They are both called
plants, one a gas processing “plant” (misnomer), the other a firewood
plant (Tree), one depressing the other refreshing, one “death
dealing the other life giving” - no comparison - poles apart.
Our approach should always consider the total environmental and
health effects. That is “birth to death analysis”, from exploration
and production, right to when it is used in our kitchen. That
is where the wood stove excels!
Our approach and selection criteria for any energy should always
consider the total or overall environmental degradation and health
effects. That is “birth to death analysis,” from exploration and
production, right to when it is used in our kitchens. That is
where the wood stove excels.
With gas there are 6 major stages of pollution:
Exploration and extraction by offshore and on shore rigs. All
gigantic monstrous structures, nothing small, nothing sustainable.
During construction of plant and pipelines (inaugural or introductory
Installation of pipelines, every street and front yard has to
be excavated (Upstream pollution)
During the production of gas (e.g. purging, venting, flaring etc.).
The lost gas (leaks) in the distribution system which is around
When being used in our kitchens or homes.
How bad is it for 4% of the gas to leak into the environment?
A CSIRO study by Dr Tom Beer concluded that if gas leaks reached
4% then the full fuel-cycle pollution “from CNG and LNG would
exceed those of diesel”. The Western Australian Transport Department,
in selecting the new breed of diesel buses, essentially said the
same thing - diesel is cleaner than gas. Moreover, there is a
difference between burned gas and lost “leaked” gas (methane CH4),
as methane is a lot more noxious and generally is 21 times (2,100%)
more destructive than CO2. Wood however, from the overall and
elevated perspective has none of the above, as wood emissions
are neutral, required by plants, biodegradable and have benign
ecological effects. The issue is not whether we harvest the trees
but whether we grow and use them sustainably, reasonably and wisely.
The “British Medical Journal ” in a preliminary study of gas and
respiratory diseases in children by Dr RJW Melia and her fellow
scientists, found that gas: “gives rise to a range of pollutants
on combustion… An association between greater severity of illness
and the use of gas for cooking was also found… The main constituents
in the emissions from a gas cooker are N2, O2, CO2… with small
amounts of CH4, C2H4, and other hydrocarbons, CO, NO, NO2, and
various aldehydes… SO2 is also given off during the burning of
gas and is potentially harmful to health.” 16/07/1977
Similarly, a study sponsored by the SA Asthma Foundation of 14,124
homes found: “Incidence of respiratory illness in small children
can be as high in homes with natural gas stoves as those with
cigarette smoke... The increased likelihood of such illness as
asthma, frequent colds and hay fever… the study presents the natural
gas industry, which has been informed… with its biggest challenge
yet… It also has implications for public health policy makers.”
The study goes on “Homes with wood-burning heaters even appear
beneficial.” (Bold ours) “The Australian” 29/11/1994
The Australian Greenhouse Office brochure “Global Warming Cool
It!” p. 20 came with the following pollution per unit of heat:
· “Wood produces 0.00 kg (Bold ours)
· Natural gas produces 0.31 kg…
· Electricity Aust. Average 1.00 kg.”
The book “Your Health and the Indoor Environment” is scathing
on gas: “this “natural” gas looms as one of the greatest contributors
to indoor pollution and therefore human illness... “natural gas
is highly unnatural as far as the human body is concerned – a
substance with which the body has no physiological method of coping…”
several studies have been conducted and the results were appalling…
some in a constant state of illness… The most likely resulting
symptoms are… headaches, fatigue, nausea, and dizziness; and such
mental concerns as depression, irritability, and confusion… The
content of nitrogen dioxide… is capable of damaging lung tissue…
Other studies… revealed a higher frequency of coughs and colds.”
The UK Medical Journal “The Lancet” in reporting a study by Dr
D Jarvis and her medical team noted, women who cook with gas tend
to suffer from “wheeze… shortness of breath… and asthma attacks…”
Is an exhaust fan the answer? “The Lancet” continues: “no protective
effect was observed… we have not observed any reduction in risk
of symptoms with the regular use of extractor fans.” (Bold ours)
“Carbon Monoxide A Silent Killer” “After asbestos, carbon monoxide
is the most common single cause of poisoning at work and in the
home” reports London Hazards Centre Trust… Carbon monoxide is
a gas that is formed when incomplete combustion occurs… in heating
appliances that burn coal or other fossil fuels, especially gas.
It is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. So how does it kill?…
Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs as the body becomes starved of
oxygen. Exposure to low emissions of carbon monoxide over a period
of time can result in permanent brain damage. Symptoms include
headache, drowsiness, weakness, dizziness, nausea, and fainting
– and in severe cases, weak pulse, coma and respiratory failure
… insufficient oxygen reaching the brain – causes death. What
can be done to avert the dangers of carbon monoxide?… If a gas
flame burns yellow rather than blue, consider it a warning of
irregular burning and possible carbon monoxide emissions…” (Italics
/ Bold ours) “Awake” 08/12/2000.
Although the decision to use a wood stove is personal, one thing
we can say with certainty, wood has a proven environmental, ecological
and health track record; fossil fuels do not as our current high
levels of pollution and ill health show.