Balcombe fracking rig from the cover of the new report
Health & Fracking: impacts and opportunity costs
An independent report from health professionals Medact, Health and fracking: the impacts and opportunity costs, concludes that fracking generates numerous public health risks. A moratorium should apply until a full public impact assessment is “conducted by a body that is entirely independent of the shale gas industry.”
Medact examines and builds on a number of reviews of the now considerable available scientific evidence on fracking health impacts, including:
•Potential health hazards associated with air pollution and water contamination: these include toxins that are linked to increased risks of cancer, birth defects and lung disease;
•Negative health impacts associated with noise, traffic, spoilage of the natural environment, and local social and economic disruption.
•The indirect effects of climate change produced by greenhouse gas emissions.
The risks and serious nature of the hazards associated with fracking, coupled with the concerns and uncertainties about the regulatory system, indicate that shale gas development should be halted until a more detailed health and environmental impact assessment is undertaken.
Such has been the “dash for gas” that an independent assessment has not been conducted yet. It would need to:
- account for all the potential risks to health, including their cumulative and compound effects on each other;
- be tailored to the specific geological, economic, environmental and social characteristics of the areas targeted for fracking;
- be based on projected levels of fracking at an industrial scale; and
- be conducted by a body that is entirely independent of the shale gas industry. The cost of an adequate regulatory system would also need to be factored in.
The report has been supported by a letter, which calls for shale gas development to be put on hold, published in the British Medical Journal signed by Medact and the Climate and Health Council and senior health professionals. The letter states that:
“The arguments against fracking on public health and ecological grounds are overwhelming. There are clear grounds for adopting the precautionary principle and prohibiting fracking.”
The letter is signed by several senior health professionals including Professor Hugh Montgomery (UCL), Professor Sue Atkinson (Co-chair Climate and Health Council), Dr Clare Gerada (former chair of the RCGP) and Dr SheilaAdams (former Deputy Chief Medical Officer) amongst others.