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 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.
Residents living on the frontlines of fracking recount their stories of illness, water contamination and damage to their livelihoods due to dirty drilling operations in a new booklet, Shalefield Stories.
“Behind the alarming numbers that outline fracking’s environmental impacts, there are real people whose lives have been gravely impacted by these polluting practices,” said John Rumpler, senior attorney for Environment America Research & Policy Center. “These are their stories, and we would be wise to heed their words of warning on fracking.”
“This is what happens when you invite fracking into your community,” said Marilyn Hunt, who suffered air and water pollution and illness in the wake of nearby fracking operations. “Today, we are not alone in saying this dirty drilling has to stop.”
The people within the pages of Shalefield Stories are only a few of the many individuals and families directly impacted by fracking operations. In some cases, residents affected by fracking are no longer able to talk about their experiences because of gag orders contained in their legal settlements with the drilling operator. One tally called List of the Harmed shows more than 4,800 individuals adversely affected by oil and gas incidents.
The Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project was created in response to individuals’ and communities’ need for access to accurate, timely and trusted public health information and health services associated with natural gas extraction.
In Pensylvania, where new laws gag physicians from sharing information about fracking chemicals with their patients, the need for trusted health information is crucial.
SWPA-EHP provides an onsite nurse practitioner and also serves as a resource center for information on the potential routes of exposure from hazardous substances, as well as strategies for limiting the risk of health effects.