Is UK shale gas extraction posing a risk to public health?

April 17, 2014

More needs to be done to investigate the risks to human health that extracting shale gas poses, suggests a personal view published in BMJ today.

Dr. Seth Shonkoff, Executive Director for Physicians Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy, and his colleagues say that operations to produce from formations such as shale sometimes occur "close to human populations", but efforts to understand the potential impacts have fallen short, focusing on regulations rather than on health outcomes.

He says that risk reduction technologies should certainly be deployed, but that reviewing the implications of shale gas development "requires more than merely gesturing to technological improvements". "Best practices", he adds, "should not be mistaken for actual practices". In other words, Dr. Shonkoff asserts that scientific data should drive decisions on health and safety, instead of gestures to understudied assertions of best practice deployment.

The recent Public Health England draft report on the extraction of shale gas does "recognize that many uncertainties surround the public health implications", however, there are "problems with its conclusions".

Dr. Shonkoff adds that many "public health impacts remain undetermined and more environmental and public health studies are needed". He says "more attention should have been paid to drilling in areas that are densely populated" especially following results from studies, which suggest that health risks have direct relation to the "geographical proximity of residences to active shale gas extraction" with further evidence suggesting adverse birth outcomes.

Dr. Shonkoff concludes that there is a need for the "assessment of the and the ability of healthcare professionals to respond to the risks presented by the development of the industry" and that rigorous research is needed to assess the risks to public health.

Explore further: First risk assessment of shale gas fracking to biodiversity

Related Stories

First risk assessment of shale gas fracking to biodiversity

June 17, 2013

Fracking, the controversial method of mining shale gas, is widespread across Pennsylvania, covering up to 280,000 km² of the Appalachian Basin. New research in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences explores the ...

EU issues framework for shale gas exploitation

January 22, 2014

The European Commission issued Wednesday recommendations to ensure that clear environmental safeguards are in place when the controversial technique of "fracking" is used to tap shale gas reserves.

Book offers simplified guide to shale gas extraction

April 17, 2014

The new book, "Science Beneath the Surface: A Very Short Guide to the Marcellus Shale," attempts to offer a reader-friendly, unbiased, scientific guide needed to make well-informed decisions regarding energy use and, more ...

Recommended for you

Bacteria in smokeless tobacco products may be a health concern

August 26, 2016

Several species of bacteria found in smokeless tobacco products have been associated with opportunistic infections, according to a paper published August 26 in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, a journal of the American ...

Is tailgating toxic?

August 26, 2016

While tailgating this football season you may want to take a step back from the grill and generator—for your health.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.