Health charity calls for immediate ban on fracking over “serious health risks”

A new report by the health professionals’ charity, Medact, has concluded that fracking for shale gas poses significant risks to public health.

The report, published today, calls for an immediate five-year moratorium to allow for an assessment of the effects on health and the environment.MedactThe study said:“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”.

Medact said the public risks from fracking included:

  • Potential health hazards from air pollution and water contamination, including toxins 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.
  • Indirect effects of climate change produced by greenhouse gas emissions

The report stated that the precise level of risk to human health could not be calculated. It said intensive levels of fracking activity could pose additional risks in the UK when compared to experiences elsewhere because it was likely to be closer to larger populations.

“Shale gas development involves continuous activity conducted over a sustained period of time for the entire course of a day, seven days a week”, the report said. “Noise (from compressors, generators, drilling and heavy trucks); light pollution; bad odours; and heavy traffic can cause distress and negative health impacts on nearby communities, especially in the context of quiet rural and semi-rural areas.”

“The introduction of a temporary and intensive extractive industry will also disrupt and divide the social fabric of local communities, compounding both the mental and physical effects of other hazards. When conducted on an industrial scale, it will also alter the character and aesthetic of the local area and potentially affect wildlife and biodiversity as well.”

The report said the regulatory system for fracking was “currently incomplete and inadequately robust”.

“It is clear that no assurance can be given that the [regulator] system is adequately robust and protective of human and ecological health”.

It also highlighted what it said were the limitations of Public Health England’s report on fracking, which concluded in October 2013 that the risks were low if the technique was properly regulated. Medact criticised the PHE study for being too narrow in scope and for failing to critically assess the regulatory system.

The director of Medact, Dr David McCoy, 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’.”

Medact’s report said shale gas produced greenhouse gas emissions that were 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.”

Health and Fracking, the impacts and opportunity costs

Leading medics write to the BMJ calling for a fracking ban

9 replies »

  1. No mention of the fact that Mike Hill has been exposed being a bit economical with the truth. He has appeared in many places in the media, order-order.com, The Times, Brietbart to name but a few. Doesn’t help MedAct’s report. I hope you balance your reporting with some detail, even just reporting the facts that it has been reported in the MSM, about Mike.

    • Very fair point. However, at the time of writing the post, Mr Hill’s involvement hadn’t come to light. When it did, I included it, with a link to The Times, in the Daily Headlines section. This tends to get a wider readership than individual posts.

      • I realise that at the time of this post Mike’s past hadn’t come to light, but considering that MedAct’s report gets two stories I would have though Mike’s story would get at least one, especially considering that he is such a major author of the report (3 out of 6 chapters). However, if the daily headlines gets a wider readership then fair point.

        Whilst I’m on, how about another bit of balance. Greenpeace complains about NW Energy Task Force not having local support, yet they and their colleagues are happy to promote the visit by non-locals, specifically Americans to the North West. A critical journalist would pick apart the Greenpeace story, as much as they would dig into the claims by the industry. I’m not trying to teach you to suck eggs, just asking for a bit more criticism of the antis rather than just churnalism of their PR, and feel free to do the same level of criticism of the pro side too.

        Keep up the good work.

      • Thanks for your comment and the points you make. Can you send me details of the Greenpeace story about visits by Americans to the north-west? I’ve obviously missed that and it would be good to have a look at it. Please keep the comments coming. All feedback is useful and churnalism benefits no one.

      • Mr Sadlad – First rule of trolling – get your facts straight GP/FOE lol.

        There is perhaps a difference between a flying supportive visit from people from another country and an astroturf group that has now been exposed as having very little, if anything, to do with the North West. You could probably see that if you took off those blinkers.

        As regards the appalling Mike Hill smears I think that those who are letting themselves get used here ought to have a little look at themselves and work out how it makes THEM look. Also I wonder if Cuadrilla’s IT security is totally ineffective or did they actually leak the email deliberately? Either way they don’t look good.

  2. In one of his email to Cuadrilla’ former CEO Mark Miller a couple of years back was to the wording to the effect “…my knowledge of the industry could be of help to either sides”…..To me this is you better hire me for my knowledge or I will use my knowledge to campaign against you. Doesn’t sound like a person with integrity.
    Anyway what is an oil service engineer know about medical health impact. Is he qualified to make a critical/unbiased and sound assessment on these issue?

  3. Ruth, I was at the launch of this very poor report, and there are several fundamental errors in it. I have written an Open letter to Medact asking them to withdraw this as it is not science. The fact that they have completely ignored UK regs (Mike Hill denies they exist) and had NO IDEA that chemicals are controlled in the UK means it has zero relevance here. I had to hand a copy to the person that was talking about this and he had ZERO idea of the regulations. All of the dodgy chemicals are not permitted. The Open Letter is quite long but would you be prepared to put it on another page? They also seem unable to point to the key reports that document cancer and baby health issues, that have not been slated by people like the Chief Medical officer for the state, and that has been properly peer reviewed by scientists, not anti frack campaigners. This really is a totally flawed and irrelevant study. In the US, it is well documented that health and pollution has improved as shale gas is cleaner that coal, which it is displacing.

    The fact that Mike Hill has been outed as an antifrack candidate in the Fylde, and has been shown to ‘economical with the truth’ blows any credibility of balance out of the window

    • Ken – you keep saying that “the chemicals are controlled in the UK” – can you please clarify exactly *how* you control thos chemicals that leach into the fracking fluid? Is it magic of some sort? Maybe it’s prayer from the Rev Roberts? You seem to have a total blindspot for this issue (probably because it doesn’t suit your Panglossian narrative).

      Can you explain why you feel a report criticising fracking has to be “balanced” (i.e. presumably written by people who are undecided about fracking) whilst many of the reports and rebuttals can often be linked to the other side.

      You also seem happy that the health impacts of dirty coal get displaced to wherever the coal is used when it gets displaces – ironically that’s possibly in your own back yard.

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