Eighteen leading UK doctors and medical academics have called for a ban on fracking.
In a letter to the British Medical Journal, the group, which includes nine professors, said the arguments against fracking on public health and ecological grounds were overwhelming.
The group said:
“Fracking is an inherently risky activity that produces hazardous levels of air and water pollution that can have adverse impacts on health. It said: “There are clear grounds for adopting the precautionary principle and prohibiting fracking.”
The signatories include the former chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, Dr Clare Gerada, the chief executive of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, Helen Gordon, and former deputy chief medical officer, Dr Sheila Adam. Members of the group hold posts at the Universities of Liverpool, Southampton, Lancaster and University College London.
In October 2013, Public Health England (PHE) concluded that the potential emissions associated with shale gas extraction were low, if operations were properly run and regulated. But that report has been criticised for not including in its analysis a large range of health studies published during 2013.
In December 2014, the health professionals’ charity, Medact, said “the claim of PHE that fracking is safe if properly practised and regulated cannot be substantiated on the basis of the available evidence which is inadequate and incomplete”. A report by Medact, published today calls for a moratorium on fracking.
The BMJ letter, a response to the forthcoming Medact report, identified risks from heavy traffic, noise and odour from fracking. It also said the technique was socially-disruptive by creating temporary “boomtowns”. Damage to the natural environment was an additional health hazard, the letter said.
“Such risks would be magnified in the UK where fracking is projected to take place in closer proximity to more densely populated communities; and where there are concerns about the effectiveness of the regulatory system for onshore gas extraction.”
It also countered the argument that shale gas was a clean source of energy.
“Methane is a potent greenhouse gas in its own right and when burnt, produces carbon dioxide. Shale gas extraction would undermine our commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and be incompatible with global efforts to prevent global warming from exceeding two degrees centigrade.”
Yorkshire doctors call for health assessment on fracking
- GPs leaders in Yorkshire are calling for an assessment of potential health risks of fracking – before the technique is used in Ryedale. The NHS Scarborough and Ryedale Clinical Commissioning Group (SRCCG) said there was not enough evidence to conclude that fracking posed a low risk to the local population. It called for a full Health Impact Assessment before decisions were made on shale gas exploration in the area. Third Energy is preparing a planning application to frack its existing exploration well at Kirby Misperton in Ryedale. It told MPs earlier this month if the well was successful the company would want to frack at up to 19 sites in the area, with between 10 and 50 wells per site. SRCCG, at a meeting last week, agreed there should be a full Health Impact Assessment before any planning application was decided.