The recently published Medact report on the health impacts of fracking mentions that “There are now over 450 peer-reviewed publications in this
field, consisting of studies, reviews and commentaries. “
Some of the key ones are the December 2014 review of evidence by the New York State Department of Health (already published on this site), plus four other reports not seen here before:
The evidence is very, very clear.
Anybody who ignores it is either:
a) unintelligent, or
b) lying, and
c) doesn’t care about the health of the people or the other negative impacts, which are now very well known and well documented.
Eighteen senior UK health professionals have written to the British Medical Journal, saying that “The arguments against fracking on public health and ecological grounds are overwhelming.”
The BMJ has published the letter.
The letter mentions a recent report by Medact (a UK-based organisation of “Health professionals for a safer, fairer & better world”).
You can read the report here.
You can read the letter to the BMJ below, and also here.
We write as concerned health professionals who seek to draw the public’s attention to the dangers associated with hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and shale gas extraction in the United Kingdom, as highlighted by a recent report published by Medact.
Fracking is an inherently risky activity that produces hazardous levels of air and water pollution that can have adverse impacts on health. The heavy traffic, noise and odour that accompanies fracking, as well as the socially disruptive effects of temporary ‘boomtowns’ and the spoilage of the natural environment are additional health hazards.
Such risks would be magnified in the UK where fracking is projected to take place in closer proximity to more densely populated communities; and where there are concerns about the effectiveness of the regulatory system for onshore gas extraction.
But in addition to this, shale gas is not a clean source of energy. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas in its own right, and when burnt, produces carbon dioxide. Shale gas extraction would undermine our commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and be incompatible with global efforts to prevent global warming from exceeding two degrees centigrade.
The arguments against fracking on public health and ecological grounds are overwhelming. There are clear grounds for adopting the precautionary principle and prohibiting fracking.
Dr Robin Stott, Co-Chair, Climate and Health Council
Professor Sue Atkinson CBE, Co-Chair, Climate and Health Counci
Professor Hugh Montgomery, UCL
Professor Maya Rao OBE
Professor Martin McKee, LSHTM
Dr Clare Gerada, GP and former Chair of RGCP
Dr Christopher Birt, University of Liverpool and Christie Hospital, Manchester
Professor John Yudkin, Emeritus Professor of Medicine, UCL
Dr Sheila Adam, former Deputy Chief Medical Officer
Professor Klim McPherson, Chair of the UK Health Forum
Dr John Middleton, Vice President UKFPH
Professor Alan Maryon-Davis, KCL
Helen Gordon, Chief Executive, RPS
Dr Frank Boulton, Medact and Southampton University
Dr Sarah Walpole, Academic Clinical Fellow
Professor Allyson Pollock, QMUL
Dr Julie Hotchkiss, Acting Director of Public Health at City of a York Council
Professor Jennie Popay, Lancaster University
Competing interests: No competing interests
In 2011 the US House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce asked 14 leading oil and gas service companies to disclose the types and volumes of the hydraulic fracturing products they used in their fracking fluids between 2005 and 2009.
The resulting report can be accessed here.
The relevant extract from the Executive Summary reads [emphasis added]:
“Between 2005 and 2009, the 14 oil and gas service companies used more than 2,500 hydraulic fracturing products containing 750 chemicals and other components. Overall, these companies used 780 million gallons of hydraulic fracturing products – not including water added at the well site – between 2005 and 2009.
“Some of the components used in the hydraulic fracturing products were common and generally harmless, such as salt and citric acid [though do you want these added to your groundwater?]. Some were unexpected, such as instant coffee and walnut hulls. And some were extremely toxic, such as benzene and lead.
“The most widely used chemical in hydraulic fracturing during this time period, as measured by the number of compounds containing the chemical, was methanol. Methanol, which was used in 342 hydraulic fracturing products, is a hazardous air pollutant and is on the candidate list for potential regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
“Between 2005 and 2009, the oil and gas service companies used hydraulic fracturing products containing 29 chemicals that are (1) known or possible human carcinogens, (2) regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act for their risks to human health, or (3) listed as hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act. These 29 chemicals were components of more than 650 different products used in hydraulic fracturing.
“The BTEX compounds – benzene, toluene, xylene, and ethylbenzene – appeared in 60 of the hydraulic fracturing products used between 2005 and 2009. Each BTEX compound is a regulated contaminant under the Safe Drinking Water Act and a hazardous air pollutant under the Clean Air Act. Benzene also is a known human carcinogen. The hydraulic fracturing companies injected 11.4 million gallons of products containing at least one BTEX chemical over the five year period.
“In many instances, the oil and gas service companies were unable to provide the Committee with a complete chemical makeup of the hydraulic fracturing fluids they used. Between 2005 and 2009, the companies used 94 million gallons of 279 products that contained at least one chemical or component that the manufacturers deemed proprietary or a trade secret. Committee staff requested that these companies disclose this proprietary information. Although some companies did provide information about these proprietary fluids, in most cases the companies stated that they did not have access to proprietary information about products they purchased “off the shelf” from chemical suppliers. In these cases, the companies are injecting fluids containing chemicals that they themselves cannot identify. “
Chemicals from fracking pose “serious health risks” to pregnant women, babies, and children, a new study has claimed.
Research published in the peer-reviewed journal Reviews on Environmental Health today finds fracking operations use and create chemicals linked to birth defects, infertility, miscarriage, impaired foetal growth, low birth weight, preterm birth, and premature or delayed sexual development, among other health problems.
The report’s authors, from the non-profit Center for Environmental Health (CEH) in California and the Institute for Health and the Environment at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Albany, find more than 750 chemicals may be used in fracking operations, many of which are “routinely released” into the environment, posing a potential threat to nearby communities.
They state that the substances include about 130 known or suspected endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), which have been linked to a range of health problems including altered reproductive function, increased incidence of breast cancer, abnormal growth and developmental delays in children, and changes in immune function.
Still, the fracking fluid that Third Energy are planning to use at Kirby Misperton only contains ‘non-hazardous’ chemicals and is completely harmless, so no need for us to worry …
Read the whole article in Business Green.
He opens by saying that he had recently attended two key meetings, that between them “gathered just about all the expertise in the planet on shale oil and gas and fracking issues.”
And then he summarises the current situation, and lessons learned from the USA, before drawing five conclusions for fracking in the UK.
I’ve summarised his points below, though to be honest his piece is very short and you would likely be better off reading the whole thing here.
And what I think this means for us in Ryedale is:
Remember also that since this article/viewpoint was published,
i) Rather than trying to negotiate, the government has chosen the path of confrontation, seeking to impose fracking via the so called ‘Infrastructure Bill’, currently before the House of Lords.
ii) Third Energy has made planning applications to NYCC to put in place some of the critical infrastructure without which it would not be able to frack.
This doesn’t make for pretty reading, but I’ve just stumbled on to a citizen page of a “list of the individuals and families that have been harmed by fracking (or fracked gas and oil production) in the US.”
The page is here: http://pennsylvaniaallianceforcleanwaterandair.wordpress.com/the-list/
People living near a Rathlin’s exploratory gas-drilling site in West Newton, near Beverley, have complained to the Environment Agency about feeling sick from noxious smells.
“The smell is hideous, very distinctive, pungent and nauseous. It comes in waves. It started last week and has continued since. It fades in and out. The area where they are drilling is very rural and the smell drifts easily a mile away,” says Debbie Stabler, who lives 400m from the drill site near West Newton.
“Depending on the wind, it has at times reached villages like West Newton and Withernwick,” said Stabler, who with others have also complained about gas flaring and light pollution from the round-the-clock operation.
A sombre warning if we ever allow exploratory drilling in Ryedale …
Read the whole Guardian article here.
A Yale-led study has found a greater prevalence of health symptoms reported among residents living close to natural gas wells, including those drilled by hydraulic fracturing, including a marked increase in respiratory problems and skin conditions.
The researchers conducted a random survey of 492 people in 180 households with ground-fed water wells in southwestern Pennsylvania, where natural gas extraction activity is significant. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, there were 624 active natural gas wells in the survey area. Of those, 95% produce gas via hydraulic fracturing.
Read the full article on the Yale News website.
People living near natural-gas wells were more than twice as likely to report upper-respiratory and skin problems than those farther away, says a major study Wednesday on the potential health effects of fracking.
Nearly two of every five, or 39%, of those living less than two-thirds of a mile from a well reported upper respiratory symptoms, compared to 18% living more than 2 kilometers away, according to a Yale University-led random survey of 492 people in 180 households with ground-fed water wells in southwestern Pennsylvania.
Read the whole article in USA Today.
Breast Cancer UK has called for a moratorium on fracking and warned that the cocktail of chemicals used in the process may increase cancer rates.
The charity points out that many of the chemicals used in fracking are known chemicals of concern and have been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. For example, benzene, acrylamide, formaldehyde and ethylene oxide are all used in fracking and are all listed by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as human carcinogens and have been linked to breast cancer tumours in other studies.
The report concludes: Breast Cancer UK has strong concerns about the potentially adverse health effects of increased exposure to harmful chemicals as a result of fracking. We support our European partners’ calls for a moratorium on all exploration and exploitation licensing in all EU countries [including the UK] and a comprehensive review of EU policies which pertain to fracking.
Find out more by reading the Breast Cancer UK fact sheet.