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Blue Hydrogen: A Threat to Public Health?

By The Environmental Health Project

A number of legislators and industry representatives have recently touted “blue hydrogen” as a clean solution to many of the world’s energy challenges. Generally speaking, hydrogen is a clean fuel that, when used in a fuel cell, produces no pollution. The blue hydrogen process, however, is not the panacea some would make it out to be. And while energy experts have raised real questions about blue hydrogen’s environmental footprint and business model, there can be no doubt about one unwanted consequence: If blue hydrogen production ramps up, there will be an associated increase in the risks to public health.

Green hydrogen produced using solar energy might look like this.

What is blue hydrogen? To talk about blue hydrogen, we first need to talk about green hydrogen. (Different colors are assigned to represent the various hydrogen-producing processes.) Green hydrogen is created through a process of extracting hydrogen from water molecules, which can then be used as a light and highly reactive fuel, typically in hydrogen fuel cells (HFCs)—which operate like batteries— to be used in cars, laptops, or backup power system, or even in power plants. This technology is called “green” because it uses renewable sources of energy to extract the hydrogen and because the only byproduct of producing and using it is oxygen and water, making it very eco-friendly. No harmful emissions are produced and there are no costs associated with handling and storing toxic materials like diesel fuel or battery acid.

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