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Thursday, 5 December 2013

Fracking and public health risk

It seems the best work on public health impacts of fracking is being done in those areas where the fracking is not already occurring. First from New Brunswick and discussed at the most visited DrPHealth posting at  Fracking an obscene word . Now out of the UK comes an excellent review of the potential public health impacts and a solid contribution to our understanding.

Notable in its conclusions are that well managed and executed fracking is unlikely any risk to public health.  The threat is in the management of materials on the surface and the integrity of the well casing.  

Contamination of ground waters where it has happened appears secondary to poorly sealed wells or surface spills, putting the emphasis back to the development and operation of the fracking as the concern if any. 

What the document does well is break out in a health risk assessment approach to the relative potential threats, reviews existing evidence in areas such as air pollution, radon and other radioactive materials, water, wastewater, and chemical contamination.

Most public concerns seem to centre around water contamination.  The report details a review of 43 documented incidents of water contamination.  It also emphasizes that natural gas fracturing occurs at typically 1 km or more, whereas even the deepest ground water supplies do not approach this depth.    

The report provides excellent recommendations on further research needs.

Check it out at Fracking HP England

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