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Medact’s new report, Health & Fracking: the impacts & opportunity costs, concludes that hydraulic fracturing for shale gas (‘fracking’) poses significant risks to public health and calls for an immediate moratorium to allow time for a full and comprehensive health and environmental impact assessment (HIA) to be completed.
Health & Fracking: the impacts and opportunity costs concludes that fracking generates numerous public health risks, 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 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 report states that the precise level of risk to human health cannot be calculated and emphasises that intensive levels of fracking activity could pose additional risks in the UK when compared to experiences elsewhere because of the proximity and size of surrounding populations. In addition, the report describes how the regulatory system for fracking is currently incomplete and inadequately robust.
Dr David McCoy, Director of Medact said:
“Today, Medact, alongside a wider group of health professionals, has called for a moratorium on fracking because of the serious risks it poses to public health. Fracking has already been suspended in Wales and Scotland because of health and climate risks and New York State has banned fracking because of the ‘significant health risks’.”
The report highlights the limitations of Public Health England’s report on fracking, including the fact that it was narrow in scope and failed to critically assess the adequacy and reliability of the regulatory system.
Working with various experts in energy policy and climate change, Medact’s report also describes how shale gas produces a level of GHG emissions that is incompatible with the UK’s commitments to address climate change.
Dr Patrick Saunders, a co-author of the report said:
“Climate change is the biggest long-term threat to global public health. Suspending fracking now will also allow time for the independent UK Committee on Climate Change to complete its next assessment of the climate change risks.”
A copy of the Medact report is available here: http://www.medact.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/medact_fracking-report_WEB3.pdf
The British Medical Journal letter can be found here http://www.bmj.com/content/348/bmj.g2728/rr . 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.
Details of the medical affects of the chemicals used in fracking can be found in our supplementary paper: ‘Additional information about potential pollutants and toxins’
Details of the Wales moratorium: http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/end-fracking-wales-welsh-government-8638802
Details of the Scotland moratorium: http://news.scotland.gov.uk/News/Moratorium-called-on-fracking-1555.aspx
Link to the New York State report on the health impacts of fracking is here: http://www.health.ny.gov/press/reports/docs/high_volume_hydraulic_fracturing.pdf
Details of the Committee on Climate Change assessment of the climate impacts of fracking: http://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/letter-response-to-the-environmental-audit-committee/