Medical research into fracking is increasing rapidly. Most studies show impacts, and an increasing number of medical organisations and professionals are calling for a temporary or permanent ban on fracking.
Most papers on the topic have been published since the UK government last reviewed the health impacts of fracking. So our government’s current position is based on out of date science.
Here are just a few key reports on the health impacts of fracking.
British Medical Journal Letter
Eighteen senior UK health professionals have written to the BMJ, saying that “The arguments against fracking on public health and ecological grounds are overwhelming.”
More on the Medact Report it refers to below.
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, Board Member, Climate and Health Council
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
The letter is on the BMJ website here.
Powerful and Damning Letter from Health Professionals of New York
Concerned Health Professionals Support N.Y. Fracking Ban
- Evidence linking water contamination to fracking–related activities is now indisputable.
- The structural integrity of wells can fail. These failures are common, unavoidable, and increase over time as wells age and cement and casings deteriorate.
- The disposal of fracking wastewater is causally linked to earthquakes and radioactive contamination of surface water. It remains a problem with no solution.
- Air quality impacts from fracking–related activities are clearer than ever.
- Community and social impacts of fracking can be widespread, expensive, and deadly.
- Industry secrecy contributes to unsettled science.
“The arguments against fracking on public health and ecological grounds are overwhelming. There are clear grounds for adopting the precautionary principle and prohibiting fracking”
Fracking Wells Linked to Significantly Higher Hospital Admissions
Increased hospitalisations for people living near fracking wells, especially for the heart and nervous system, as well as cancer, skin and urinary problems.
A scientific study looked at hospital utilisation rates for 3 counties in Pennsylvania, with a population of 160,000.
“This study examines an association between wells and healthcare use by zip code from 2007 to 2011 in Pennsylvania.
These data suggest that unconventional gas and oil drilling wells, which dramatically increased in the past decade, were associated with increased inpatient prevalence rates within specific medical categories in Pennsylvania.”
Unconventional Gas and Oil Drilling Is Associated with Increased Hospital Utilization Rates – PLOS One (an Open Access, and peer reviewed, scientific journal)
Fracking Wells Linked to Premature Births & High Risk Pregnancies
Study of 10,000 pregnancies in Pennsylvania associates unconventional gas development with pregnancy outcomes.
“Unconventional gas development has expanded rapidly … in Pennsylvania from 0 to 3,689 wells in 8 years.
Prenatal residential exposure to unconventional natural gas development activity was associated with two pregnancy outcomes, adding to evidence that unconventional natural gas development may impact health.”
Unconventional Natural Gas Development and Birth Outcomes in Pennsylvania, USA. – Epidemiology (Scientific Journal)
“The growth in the fracking industry has gotten way out ahead of our ability to assess what the environmental and, just as importantly, public health impacts are.
The first few studies have all shown health impacts”
Professor Brian S. Schwartz, John Hopkins University
Could fracking increase the risk of preterm births? – RedOrbit
The Human Stories Behind the Science
List of The Harmed
An ever-growing list of the individuals and families that have been harmed by fracking (or fracked gas and oil production) in the US.
List Entries 16,445, 16,456, & 16447: Caren Moon, Melissa Morgan, Avery Lawton
Grandmother and midwife Donna Young noticed a sudden and alarming increase in birth defects and still births in Vernal, Texas – a town built by oil. After years of delivering healthy babies there was a girl with a shredded epiglottis, choking her when she tried to feed; a boy born tongue-tied and with a clubfoot; a girl born tongue-tied and lip-tied as well, preventing her from latching onto her mother’s breast. All required surgeries days after birth. Still others were born tiny or with mangled placentas.
At least ten babies would die that year – a shockingly big number for a small town.
After Young spoke to the media about the infant deaths, she received threats and now goes to bed with her gun by her side.
What’s Killing the Babies of Vernal, Utah? – Rolling Stone
A Doctor Writes
For more on the health impacts of fracking: isfrackingsafe.com
Concerned Health Professionals UK
Launched November 2018: