Asthma & Lung
Potential Public Health Hazards, Exposures and Health Effects from Unconventional Natural Gas Development
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.
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…
The American Nurses Association (ANA) House of Delegates adopted a resolution on Nurses Role in Recognizing, Educating and Advocating for Healthier Energy Choices at their June 2012 convention.
The resolution was submitted by the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association (PSNA). It focuses on nurses using evidence-based information to educate other health professionals, the public and policy makers about the relationship between energy choices and human health.
“Human and ecological health risks are directly related to the use of coal-fired power plants, mountaintop removal of coal, offshore and onshore oil and natural gas drilling, and hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking.’ Research demonstrates that increased rates of asthma attacks, cardiovascular diseases and lung cancer are all associated with our current reliance on fossil fuels.
A study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in the US shows that workers at fracking operation sites may be exposed to dust with high levels of respirable crystalline silica during hydraulic fracturing. NIOSH collected 116 air samples at 11 different hydraulic fracturing sites in five different states to evaluate worker exposure to crystalline silica. At each of the 11 sites, full-shift personal-breathing-zone (PBZ) exposures to respirable crystalline silica consistently exceeded relevant occupational health criteria.
Inhalation of silica can cause silicosis, an incurable but preventable lung disease.