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Does living near a petroleum refinery affect ones health?

Q: I reside near a petroleum refinery with my family at a distance of five km. Many people in the surrounding area say that the refinery pollution will cripple everybody. At times, we get bad smell in the air and also in the water flowing out of the refinery. I would like to know what are the diseases/health problems that may develop due to the refinery pollution and what are symptoms of such developments?

A:The Environmental Protection Agency in the USA provides all the information on pollution and the associated health threats that have reliable research data on which to base judgement of risk. The problem with any advanced society is that chemical pollution is inevitable and there is therefore a risk of damage to the lungs and other organs of those who are exposed. The risk is generally small and therefore society tolerates the situation and even allows the hazard to exceed what is safe. On the other hand living in a less developed environment usually implies poverty and this has more serious health risks. There is, therefore a tradeoff, but vigilance by the public is required to prevent unreasonable levels of pollutants in the air, water and food.

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