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…
High-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing of shale formations has the potential to make natural gas a significant, economical energy source, but the potential for harm to human health is often dismissed by proponents of this method. While adverse health outcomes of medical conditions with long latency periods will not be evident for years and will depend on the exposure, duration of exposure, dose, and other factors, we argue that it would be prudent to begin to track and monitor trends in the incidence and prevalence of diseases that already have been shown to be influenced by environmental agents. The dirty downside of modern, unconventional natural gas development, as well as the potential for harm, is discussed. Review Article from ISRN Public Health
This peer reviewed study by Dr. Theo Colborn details the health risks related to air pollutants generated by natural gas operations. Researchers documented a range of volatile chemicals and correlated them with well site operations. They documented the presence of numbers of chemicals at levels which could have multiple health effects on adults as well as on prenatally exposed children. Many of the chemicals found in the air are endocrine disruptors.
It will take years for the full health impact of natural gas development to be known. Authors of a new peer-reviewed study urge that steps be taken now to protect the health of humans and the planet. Modern Natural Gas Development and Harm to Health: The Need for Proactive Public Health Policies argues that the natural gas industry must make changes now to protect the health of people and animals.
The paper provides a literature review of unconventional natural gas development and its effects on human health. It focuses on impacts on children’s health, general harm to health, water contamination and air and soil contamination.
DISH, Texas is a tiny community, surrounded by shale gas compression stations.
In 2009, after residents of the town began reporting a range of symptoms including nosebleeds, headaches, and dizziness, the company “investigated.” They concluded that everything was normal, that there were no emissions detectable to the human nose.
The town then spent 15% of its budget to hire Wolf Eagle Environmental, an independent laboratory, to conduct air quality tests. Test results found that air quality was far from normal. Tests documented high levels of 15 chemicals, including benzene, xylene, naphthalene and carbon disulfide at five of seven test sites. In some cases the levels were 10 times the recommended level for short-term exposure, and some levels were high enough to be an immediate danger, according to the analysis.