Gas companies are talking about replacing some of the fossil gas delivered to our homes with hydrogen. When hydrogen burns, it makes water, which sounds good for the climate, but there are serious problems with using hydrogen in homes.
For example, depending on the burner temperature, hydrogen can make more nitrogen oxides than methane does. When combined with indoor air pollution, these nitrogen oxides exacerbate asthma and other respiratory conditions. Indoor air pollution is often worse in low income and environmental justice areas, and rates of asthma are consequently higher in these areas.
Hydrogen is the most common element in the universe; it’s what stars are made of. It’s highly reactive and doesn’t exist on its own, so in order to isolate it, we have to make it. Ninety-five percent of hydrogen is produced from fracked gas via steam methane reforming (SMR)1. One source estimates that 11 times as much CO2 by weight is produced during manufacturing as the weight of hydrogen2. So given that you need methane to make the hydrogen, and more methane to run the process, hydrogen, viewed over its lifecycle, is not better for the environment.
Hydrogen is five times as flammable as methane. The flames are nearly invisible, it leaks at a faster rate than fossil gas, and firefighters have not been trained to put out hydrogen fires. While a professional, safety-conscious workforce can use hydrogen in a professional setting, it’s not a product most families would want around their children.
Mass Medical Society Supports Resolution
In recognition of the health and safety dangers of piping hydrogen, GBPSR submitted a resolution to the Massachusetts Medical Society. The Society passed the resolution with 96% approval in early 2022 with the aim of increasing clinician and public awareness of the health risks of fossil fuel derived hydrogen.
The next step is supporting a resolution that is before the American Medical Association. If you would like to get involved in this effort, reach out to GBPSR.
1 Meka Ochu, Sarah braverman, Griffin Smith, and Dr. Julio Friedmann, Hydrogen Fact Sheet, Columbia SIPA Center
2 Meka Ochu, Sarah Braverman, Griffin Smith, and Dr. Julio Friedmann, Hydrogen Fact Sheet, Columbia SIPA Center