Health case against shale gas exploration is convincing, expert tells fracking inquiry + key health issues from Day 12

Health sign

The health risks of shale gas exploration are too great to justify it going ahead, the inquiry into Cuadrilla’s fracking plans heard today.

David McCoyPublic health expert, Dr David McCoy, said some professionals advised against shale gas production because the hazards were too significant. But he said this warning could also apply to exploration. He said:

“When you add in climate change and global warming, for me, the case becomes much stronger. When you add up all the arguments, the direct, indirect and long-term potential impacts, the case is very convincing that we should not be undertaking shale gas exploration or production.”

He said the health effects of exploration included:

  • Stress and anxiety and lack of trust in fracking
  • Impacts of noise
  • Management and safe treatment of waste water

Low or negligible risk depends on best practice

Dr McCoy, a witness called by Friends of the Earth, said the risk to human health posed by potentially hazardous pollutants linked to shale gas exploration had been assessed as low or negligible.

But he said this assessment assumed operators followed best practice and stringent safety measures were enforced.

Noise and light pollution

Dr McCoy said both light and noise pollution can cause negative health impacts, including sleep disturbance. People in rural areas were more likely to suffer from noise and light pollution than people in cities.

People closest most at risk

Asked who would suffer most from the fracking proposals, Dr McCoy said:

“Any negative direct impacts on human health will be concentrated in people living in the immediate surroundings of the two proposed sites and be most likely caused by the effects of noise and other nuisances.”

Fear and stress

Dr McCoy said Lancashire residents were already suffering from fear, anxiety and stress as a result of the fracking applications.

He said the causes included:

  • Perceptions of risk to health and the environment, particularly from commercial shale gas production
  • An apparent lack of trust in the oil and gas industry in general and Cuadrilla in particular;
  • Feelings of anger and helplessness caused by the view that shale gas production would be forced onto local people by national government policy

He said measures to alleviate fear and worry wouldn’t work while people believed the government would impose commercial shale gas production, there were doubts about the regulatory system and the risks of production had not been assessed properly.

“Only way to displace concerns is to do it”

Cuadrilla’s barrister, Nathalie Lieven, told the inquiry the only way to prove there was no risk to human health from fracking was to do it. She said:

“Then those concerns, we assume, will be dissipated because it will be shown to be safe. You can study until you are blue in the face but until you do it you won’t have the evidence”.

Dr McCoy replied:

“You are assuming that it will be shown to be safe and there is no evidence for that.”

“There are a whole range of reasons why we should be cautious about encouraging exploratory fracking. There are reasons that this risk is not worth it.”

Call for health impact studies

Dr McCoy called for an assessment of the health impacts of industrial scale production. He said:

“One way we could mitigate effects on anxiety would be to conduct an impact assessment of production at scale, including the impact of shale gas on climate change”.

“Even in this phase of exploration what is very clear is that the stress, anxiety and mental health impacts are related to fears of the risk of commercial production. It is entirely reasonable to undertake a risk assessment of commercial production at this stage.”

Nathalie Lieven, for Cuadrilla, put it to Dr McCoy that Lancashire County Council had not turned down the applications on health issues nor asked for any conditions on health.

Dr McCoy said the Director of Public Health for Lancashire had recommended baseline monitoring of public health before any fracking began. Because of local mistrust in Cuadrilla, he said, it should be collected by a neutral party, such as an independent group of academics.

Financial burden on local authorities

Dr McCoy said public health agencies needed to be prepared for increased demand for their services if fracking went ahead. He said a weakness of the report by Public Health England was that it did not put a cost on effective regulation.

Comparing impacts

The inspector, Wendy McKay, asked Dr McCoy whether the impact would be greater at Roseacre Wood than Preston New Road. Dr McCoy said the health impact assessment by Ben Cave Associates had concluded that the impacts would be greater at Roseacre Wood.

Balancing energy and human security

Dr McCoy said access to energy had helped to improve public health. But he said the means by which we produce energy was beginning to pose threats to human security, he said. “We need to balance energy and human security more broadly.”

“Health organisations are now turning to climate change as a critical public health issue. We need to secure energy but ensure that it is clean and production is fair and consistent with other requirements to produce a secure life.”

“On the basis of current emission trajectories, temperature rises in the next 85 years may be incompatible with an organised global community”.

This report is part of DrillOrDrop’s  Rig Watch project.  Rig Watch receives funding from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust. More details here


12 replies »

  1. Well Dr McCoy has changed his arguments. In the Medact report, there were huge concerns about cancer/poisons/health impacts due to these heart issues, and so on. 500 studies!! Shock. Has Dr McCoy accepted that these are all bullshit? Rubbish science, done by activists, peer reviewed by activists, and rejected by medical experts. Thats what PHE concluded in the Lancs CC planning report

    Now its reduced to
    ‘Stress and anxiety’ (caused in part by the Medact report, and also Fiends of the earth scaremongering)
    ‘lack of trust in fracking’ (ditto)
    ‘Impacts of noise’ (minor dispute about which standard to use, for a 14 month drilling program in 6 years)
    ‘Management and safe treatment of waste water’ (It will get done…Yawn)

    • KW, Are all these talking “quote” Bullsh_t ?
      If so, when will you be contacting them in order to re-educate these organisations on their mistakes ?

      Just Google any of the following to read their reports.

      NOBEL PEACE PRIZE winners, ( PSR ) Physicians For Social Responsibility, fracking

      DEFRA, fracking report

      BREAST CANCER ACTION, fracking

      BREAST CANCER FUND, fracking

      BREAST CANCER UK, fracking
      Stop Cancer Now, Fracking and your health, 24 February 2014

      Prevent Cancer Now, Fracking shale gas and health, a case for precaution.

      US Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA ) article headline, EPA Findings In Fracking Water Pollution Disputed By Its Own Scientists, 19th November 2015.
      EVEN THIS ORGANISATION with its very questionable fracking study, which many say missed the elephant in the room. STILL managed to find evidence of pollution to water aquifers.

      Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, CAPE’s
      CAPE’s position statement on fracking , June 2014.

      Natural Resources Defence Council, NRDC. Fracking

      United States News,
      headlined…. Toxic Chemicals, Carcinogens, skyrocket near fracking sites. ( Professor Peter Rabinowitz and Doctor David Carpenter )

      To name just a few, more available upon request.

      • Just wow. You really need to read some of the science behind this. Quoting activist groups is called playing the man, not the ball. Air pollution is strongly affected by activity and regulation, is it not? Almost none of those groups differentiate between different activities. Pretty much all of them will admit that the process of fracking the rocks is not what is causing any of the issues they are opposing. Almost all will point to activities other than the fracking, usually to do with chemicals used, pathways to the air, lack of gas being captured etc.

        The only thing they tend to agree on in their research is that it isn’t actually the fracking.

        So, just for a second, plug your brain in. Read the papers. Look for the causes. Isolate them. Apply them properly. And look at whether they are here in the UK.

        So many anti frackers cannot do things scientifically. If a paper reports chemical X in the air around sites using waste ponds then it is not scientific to say that chemical X will be found in the UK when we don’t use chemical X and we don’t use waste ponds.

        Just printing that list from the US is irrelevant, which is what the Royal Society, BGR, EASAC etc etc etc have reported.

        I mean, come on. You’ve stuck the Breast Cancer charity in three times even though their only objection is that it *might* use some chemicals one day even though it has said it won’t and even though the EA bans them, and you’re calling that science?

        The comments here are entirely valid. For years people have claimed that the Chem Trust paper mean’t something (even though it was discredited at the time). Now we have medical experts come in and (to their credit) speak honestly and admit that the health issues are to do with stress and noise. So what now? I think it is time to admit that the anti fracking side has been manipulating the evidence, which is exactly what we are seeing in the US right now. This pivitol case in Dimmock, the ground zero of fracking, after 6 years has finally made it to court and the expert witnesses are falling apart on the stand. None of it is being covered by DrillOrDrop of course, to its shame. DrillOrDrop seems like its just a news outlet for what protesters say at the moment.

        Ian Hislop was on the radio tonight and told a joke about one of the Eye’s famous journalists. Hislop recounted asking him why he was so good an investigative journalist and the man replied ‘people ring me up and tell me things’. Perhaps Ruth’s inbox is inundated.

  2. “Stress and anxiety due to the fracking application” ….surely the answer to that is to allay fears by reassuring the local population that nearly a million wells have been fracked in the US without significant health harms. The Dimmock case, that is the legal action against the fracking industry for health harms is falling apart in the US. The real stress and anxiety has been caused by film makers who resort to scaremongering.

    However while we’re on the subject of anxiety, my genuine fear regarding health harm is that (as anticipated in Grid estimates this week) we will run short of electricity next winter, with the elderly and vulnerable getting cold and coming to harm. That is a significant possibility. The government has responded by noting that we need more gas fired power stations. Where do you want the gas to come from? Qatar, Australia, the USA (all ready to supply) or Blackpool where the gas can be connected to a national pipeline closeby. Surely that’s the safe, green alternative?

    • Mark, as an Igas investor who is a regular contributor to the, Igas share chat webpage.

      I can understand with the collapse of the share price, why you are desperate to see fracking start.

  3. WELL GARY, I’m not sure where to start as you you have done a lot of talking but backed up most of what you have said with NOTHING, except your own oppinion.

    I will continue to go on about these organisations which you call “activist groups” ( I’m not sure what you are trying to imply with that, please enlighten us ) as I am aware that this is the pro-frackers Achillies Heel.

    If YOU dispute or can discedit their science, then why don’t you to something about it. I will and only then stand to be corrected.

    Untill such time, I will personally, like the vast majority of other people trust and believe these reputable organisations which can boast a long list of eminent Professors, Doctors and leading medical/chemical scientists on their board of directors.

    It’s clear that you have not read through these reports, because if you had, you would not be so quick to dismiss them.
    It does though raise the question, why are you so keen for fracking to go ahead. When we have an endless amount of bad news from the US warning us of the dangers associated with fracking. Why are you not taking the Precautionary Approach ?
    I ask myself, do you work for the fracking industry, or are you a shale gas investor ?

    • Perhaps you didn’t read what I wrote very well. I referenced the Royal Society, BGR and EASAC.

      You seem to feel it is acceptable to quote people talking about different things. That is one of the biggest issues with these activist groups today. They feel that they don’t need to learn the details – that they can just skim the surface and make their minds up based on a bit of time on google.

      Personally I very much doubt that you are being so honest with regard to yourself and the science, but just in case you are I will honour your request for more complete statements and references:

      Executive Summary (Major Findings: Section 17):
      “We did not find evidence that these mechanisms have led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States.”
      Assessment of the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas on Drinking Water Resources, EPA, 2015,

      California Council on Science and Technology (CCST) & Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
      “Hydraulic fracturing operations could contaminate groundwater through a variety of
      pathways. We found no documented instances of hydraulic fracturing or acid stimulations directly causing groundwater contamination in California.” P.34
      An Independent Scientifi¬c Assessment of Well Stimulation in California, Volume II, Potential Environmental Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing and Acid Stimulations,
      July 2015,


      The EPA study is the worlds largest and most complete study on the topic so far, so for you to call it ‘very questionable’ just because it proves you wrong is very poor on your part. However, the SAB (Science Advisory Board Hydraulic Fracturing Research Advisory Panel) did request amendments to the EPA regarding its precise wording on that issue. However Dr. David Dzombak (Chair of EPA Science Advisory Board) released an update 2 days ago in which he reports to the SAB that:

      1) The conclusion by the EPA in the June 2015 draft Assessment report stating “We did not find evidence that hydraulic fracturing mechanisms have led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States” is accurate, clear, concise,
      unambiguous, and supportable with the facts EPA has reviewed.

      Also note from the same report that:

      Extensive work has been ongoing for years by stakeholders in academia, regulatory agencies, industry and other experts to determine the condition of groundwater and whether oil and natural gas activities have caused an impact to this resource. There are numerous reports from these groups documenting the lack of widespread, systemic impacts on water resources by the oil and natural gas industry.

      Robert Jackson, Professor of Earth System Science at Stanford University reported to the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington just a few weeks ago that hydraulic fracturing is not causing problems and that the issues are down to well design and poor cement jobs.

      Activists have for years quoted 3 main locations as their evidence that ‘fracking’ is causing groundwater pollution. These are Dimock, PA, Pavillion, Wyo, and Parker County, Texas. Dimock is in court right now and Ex Professor T. Ingraffea just gave his ‘expert’ witness. It is fair to say that he got ripped to shreds. However, even if one does not want to admit that, what really matters is the outcome of the case (that the family at the heart of the anti fracking campaign for several years and who have been used globally as an example of fracking or fracking related activities polluting their water by oil and gas drilling including stories picked up by the UK media). So it really does matter that today the judge said that he had serious doubts and misgivings about the case, especially since the anti fracking side finished its testimony. Basically, they have lost the Dimock case. Not helped of course by their star witness (Ingraffea) admitting on the stand that he had no evidence that fracking had caused any water pollution there – oops.

      At Parker County they drilled a well and then didn’t cement up 4000ft below the surface and down to the shale layers. That is nothing to do with fracking, nor with UK wells. That is how that particular well in Parker County was constructed. Be annoyed with the US company if you want, but it has no baring on the UK when that well would have been illegal here – precisely because that can happen. Also note that even with that well the gasses in the aquifer were not from the shale layers, but were from a shallower hydrocarbon formation called the Strawn Formation, which because there was no cement at all behind the casing had direct access to the aquifer. That is just terrible, and here illegal, well design.

      In Pavillion they actually fracked the wells at just 1000ft where local water wells were abstracting water from the aquifer at 750ft. Who on earth is surprised that that didn’t go well? But again, that isn’t ‘fracking’, that is a complete disregard for decent regulation and should never have been allowed.

      I would support you in your ambition to stop very poor work practices like those, but I cannot support you when you are ignoring the relevant science and best research. Please, just read properly around these subjects. You are missing so much that your arguments are currently void.

      • GARY, I take note that you along with KW have specifically highlighted the US Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA ) report as evidence to support your pro-fracking stance.

        As I have previously said, the EPA’s study falls far short in its research in to the potential risks and dangers of fracking, as this following report states.
        Google search……. EPA’s Findings In Fracking Water Pollution Disputed By Its Own Scientists, 19 November 2015.

        As additional evidence, I would like to draw your attention to a VERY IMPORTANT article which certainly raises some very serious questions……….. Google search and read the following……….
        EPA’s Abandoned Wyoming Fracking Study One Retreat Of Many – ProPublica

        As you will note, the above report highlights the EPA’s catalogue of failures, the financial restrictions that have been placed upon on it and the fierce pressure the agency is put under from the Fracking industrys powerfull allies on Capitol Hill.

        It would appear that the EPA is nothing more than a Lion without teeth, with a “quote” Kick Me sign on it.

      • Think Gary should check out what happened in Dimock when Cabot compensated people for contaminated water a few years ago over $4million – the contamination happened.

  4. Whatever we are debating here on this site are purely personal view. It changes nothing or affect no decision in due course either ways. So why makes up lie and personal attacks? Just have an open exchange of views.

  5. Gary, I would also like to draw your attention to this important study.

    Google search……..

    CONROE PHYSICIANS ASSOCIATES, Hospitalization Rates Jump Near Fracking Sites: study

    • OR YOU could also read about the Fracking health risks highlited in my above post by,


      SCIENCE DAILY, Hydraulic Fracturing Link To Increase In Hospitalization Rates In Marcellus Shale.


      University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

      Environmental Health Science Core Centres ( EHSCC )

      Centre of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology at Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine.

      Centre for Environmental Health, Northern Manhattan at the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University.

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