Fracking, Shale Gas
and Health

Fracking and Health Awareness Project

Reports & Commentary

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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Air Pollution and Natural Gas Operations

07/09/2013

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.

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Is the Dairy Industry Impacted by Shale Drilling?

07/06/2013

A new peer-reviewed study finds that milk production and milk cows decreased in Pennsylvania counties where shale gas drilling is most prevalent.
From the abstract:
Unconventional natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania has accelerated over the past five years, and is unlikely to abate soon. Dairy farming is a large component of Pennsylvania’s agricultural economy. This study compares milk production, number of cows, and production per cow in counties with significant unconventional drilling activity to that in neighboring counties with less unconventional drilling activity, from 1996 through 2011. Milk production and milk cows decreased in most counties since 1996, with larger decreases occurring from 2007 through 2011 (when unconventional drilling increased substantially) in five counties with the most wells drilled compared to six adjacent counties with fewer than 100 wells drilled.

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Gas industry must make changes to protect health

05/30/2013

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.

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NB Chief Medical Officer says health is crucial in shale gas decisions

05/12/2013

The Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health for New Brunswick has issued a ground-breaking document looking at shale gas development and public health. Released in September 2012, The Chief Medical Officer of Health’s Recommendations Concerning Shale Gas Development in New Brunswick starts from guiding principles of public health, outlines what is known and what is not known about shale gas and health, and sets out recommendations for how the province should proceed in order to protect public health if it moves ahead with shale gas development.
Now Dr. Cleary is speaking out about the province’s Shale Gas Blueprint. “Because health wasn’t identified specifically as an objective or a priority, that does leave me with some cause for concern, Cleary told CBC.

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Worker Exposure to Silica During Fracking

05/09/2013

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.

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Worker Exposure to Silica During Fracking

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Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit Information on Natural Gas Extraction and Hydraulic Fracturing

04/15/2013

The Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units (PEHSU) Network encourage families, pediatricians, and communities to work together to ensure that children are protected from exposure to environmental hazards.
Children are more vulnerable to environmental hazards. They eat, drink, and breathe more than adults on a pound for pound basis. Research has also shown that children are not able to metabolize some toxicants as well as adults due to immature detoxification processes. Also, the fetus and young child are in a critical period of development when toxic exposures can have profound negative effects.

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Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit Information on Natural Gas Extraction and Hydraulic Fracturing

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Gas Patch Roulette: How Shale Gas Development Risks Public Health in Pennsylvania

03/27/2013

Gas Patch Roulette is one of the few studies to date documenting patterns of illness in people living close to shale gas development. The report was released in October, 2012 by Earthworks Oil and Gas Accountability Project (OGAP.)

The findings of this study stand in strong contrast to statements—often made by industry representatives and policymakers seeking to expand drilling—dismissing claims of health impacts as “personal anecdotes” and isolated incidents.

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EPA Links Water Contamination to Fracking in Pavillion, Wyoming

07/13/2012

In a first, federal environment officials today (Dec. 8, 2011) scientifically linked underground water pollution with hydraulic fracturing, concluding that contaminants found in central Wyoming were likely caused by the gas drilling process. …
Beginning in 2008, the EPA took water samples from resident’s drinking water wells,finding hydrocarbons and traces of contaminants that seemed like they could be related to fracking. In 2010, another round of sampling confirmed the contamination, and the EPA, along with federal health officials, cautioned residents not to drink their water and to ventilate their homes when they bathed because the methane in the water could cause an explosion.

To confirm their findings, EPA investigators drilled two water monitoring wells to 1,000 feet. The agency released data from these test wells in November that confirmed high levels of carcinogenic chemicals such as benzene, and a chemical compound called 2 Butoxyethanol, which is known to be used in fracking.

The findings by the Environmental Protection Agency come partway through a separate national study by the agency to determine whether fracking presents a risk to water resources.

In the 121-page draft report released today, EPA officials said that the contamination near the town of Pavillion, Wyo., had most likely seeped up from gas wells and contained at least 10 compounds known to be used in frack fluids.

The findings by the Environmental Protection Agency come partway through a separate national study by the agency to determine whether fracking presents a risk to water resources.

In the 121-page draft report released today, EPA officials said that the contamination near the town of Pavillion, Wyo., had most likely seeped up from gas wells and contained at least 10 compounds known to be used in frack fluids.

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