Fracking, Shale Gas
and Health

Fracking and Health Awareness Project

Latest Story

First do no harm: continue NS fracking moratorium — EHANS

04/16/2014

The Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia has submitted a detailed brief to the Nova Scotia Review of Hydraulic Fracturing, outlining concerns about health risks of the unconventional natural gas industry, including fracking.

The brief starts by looking at the state of the evidence, and points of consensus in the evidence.

The brief investigates a number of issues including the need to consider the health impacts of all aspects of the HVHF industry, including but not limited to fracking, and the need to consider short, medium and long term impacts, as well as cumulative, aggregate and peak impacts.

The brief also highlights ways in which traditional regulatory approaches are not a good fit for this industry at this time, including the fact that best practices cannot be assumed to be health protective, given the considerable gaps in scientific understanding of the issue.

The brief also highlights ways in which traditional regulatory approaches are not a good fit for this industry at this time, including the fact that best practices cannot be assumed to be health protective, given the considerable gaps in scientific understanding of the issue.

The brief notes a strong consensus in the literature to slow down and prevent harm.

The deadline for public submission of written evidence t the HF Review is April 30. Additional information is available on the HF Review website, http://www.cbu.ca/hfstudy/project-status.

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Health professionals call on Obama to stop fracking

04/14/2014

Strong words from health professionals about the risks of fracking. Across the US from every state, over 1,000 physicians, nurses and other health professionals have signed on to a letter calling on President Obama to take action to protect public health.

Letters vary from state to state, citing specifics situations in each state, but include a number of common points:

“Given this toll of drilling damage, the prudent and precautionary response would be to halt fracking wherever it’s already happening and ban new fracking.”

“Left unchecked, high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing could soon emerge as one of the greatest environmental health threats we have faced in a generation. We urge you to take action now.”

“Close the loopholes that exempt fracking from key provisions of our nation’s bedrock environmental and public health laws, including the Clean Water Act, CleanAir Act,and hazardous waste laws.”

“Heed the recommendation of your administration’s fracking advisory committee and declare sensitive areas – including places that provide drinking water for millions of Americans – as “off-limits” to fracking.”

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The Role of Ethics in Shale Gas Politics

03/04/2014

The Role of Ethics in Shale Gas Politics explores the question of how to determine the right course of action when the science is uncertain. “In the face of scientific uncertainty, national and international governments must make decisions on how to proceed. So far, the results have been varied, with some governments banning the process, others enacting moratoria until it is better understood, and others explicitly sanctioning shale gas development.”

Authors de Melo-Martín, Hays, and Finkel argue that when the science surrounding shale gas development is uncertain and there are many perceived costs and benefits in developing this resource,
(1) protection from serious harm generally takes precedence over the enhancement of welfare; (2) minimizing false negatives [e.g. concluding that there is no harm when harm has not yet been conclusively proven] in this case is more respectful to people’s autonomy; and (3) alternative solutions exist that may provide many of the same benefits while minimizing many of the harms.

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Potential Public Health Hazards, Exposures and Health Effects from Unconventional Natural Gas Development

03/04/2014

Potential Public Health Hazards, Exposures and Health Effects from Unconventional Natural Gas Development, authored by John L. Adgate,*,† Bernard D. Goldstein,‡ and Lisa M. McKenzie†, provides a detailed review of the range of potential risks to public health and evaluates the state of the evidence. Up to date, extensive overview.

ABSTRACT: The rapid increase in unconventional natural gas (UNG) development in the United States during the past decade has brought wells and related infrastructure closer to population centers. This review evaluates risks to public health from chemical and nonchemical stressors associated with UNG, describes likely exposure pathways and potential health effects, and identifies major uncertainties to address with future research.

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Potential Public Health Hazards, Exposures and Health Effects from Unconventional Natural Gas Development

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New Brunswick Lung Association: Position on Shale Gas Development

02/21/2014

The New Brunswick Lung Association (NBLA) position statement (2012) on shale gas development focuses on respiratory health.

“NBLA supports a precautionary approach to development of unconventional natural gas deposits in New Brunswick. This includes supporting a moratorium on the exploration, development, and production of unconventional natural gas until:
–The provincial government implements the recommendations of New Brunswick’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.
— Outcomes of those recommendations indicate that hydraulic fracturing can be conducted in a way that does not negatively impact the health of people living in New Brunswick.
— A third-party independent agency provides a full-life-cycle comprehensive and realistic cost/ benefit analysis of the expected revenues and all costs to New Brunswickers that can be used to make a decision to proceed, or not, with Shale Gas development.

The association notes, “The risks associated with shale gas extraction are substantial and the level of magnitude at which it is carried out is unprecedented. To provide context, in Pennsylvania alone 5,364 wells have been drilled since 2007, a number expected to rise to over 100,000 within the next few decades. Regardless of the strength of regulation and safe practice, accidents will occur and water and air will become contaminated (Hays and Law, 2012).”

The NBLA concludes, “While no energy production method is completely benign, the large-scale development of shale gas resources and their potential impacts on human health and world climate call for precaution. Potential exposure pathways must be further investigated, and epidemiologic research is needed to quantify short- and long-term risks to human populations in New Brunswick.”

Read the full statement…

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American Public Health Association Issues Policy Statement on Hydraulic Fracturing

02/20/2014

The American Public Health Association (APHA) policy document, The Environmental and Occupational Health Impacts of High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing of Unconventional Gas Reserves, examines the “major risks posed by HVHF to public health and the environment, including groundwater and surface water contamination, climate change, air pollution, and worker health.” The policy document considers “the entire process surrounding HVHF, including site preparation, drilling and casing, well completion, production, transportation, storage and disposal of wastewater and chemicals, and site remediation.”

The policy statement provides a detailed overview of identified problems in 10 major areas as well as recommendations for how to approach the issue as well as recommended action steps.

The 10 major areas examined in the statement are:

1. Groundwater, 2. Surface water pollution, 3. Wastewater treatment, 4. Water resources, 5. Air pollution, 6. Noise and light pollution, 7. Community wellness and mental health, 8. Occupational health, 9. Local public health and health care system effects, and 10. Emergency response systems.

Recommendations on how to approach the issue highlight the importance of :
1. Explicitly comparing tradeoffs among the economic, strategic, public health, and global climatological implications of energy alternatives under different extraction scenarios over the long term.

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