4,000+ call for updated UK report on fracking health impacts as study finds 17.6m Americans live within 1 mile of oil and gas sites

pnr 170822 Ros Wills6

The drilling rig at Cuadrila’s Preston New Road  shale gas site, 22 August 2017. Photo: Ros Wills

A petition will be presented next week calling for a review of an official UK report on the impact of fracking on health.

Two campaigners who live near Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site in Lancashire will deliver the petition, which at the time of writing had 4,144 signatures, to Public Health England.

The organisation concluded in a review published in 2014 that the potential risks to public health from exposure to the emissions associated with shale gas extraction would be low if operations were properly run and regulated.

But since then there has been criticism of the scope of the review and calls for it to be updated.

Yesterday, a study by three US organisations estimated that 17.6m Americans lived within a mile of oil and gas developments. It is the first peer-reviewed nationwide measurement in the USA of the numbers living near actively producing oil and gas wells.

It referred to studies which have indicated negative health outcomes associated with active oil and gas operations. Reported symptoms have included: nose, eye, and throat irritation; headaches; and fatigue. There is evidence of increased hospitalisation rates to cardiology, neurology and oncology departments, as well as increased incidence and severity of asthma. Studies have also shown that children who lived near oil and gas developments were more likely to have lower birth rate or preterm births and increased incidence of childhood cancer.

Dr Frank Rugman, from Preston New Road Action Group, will be presenting the petition to PHE. He said:

 “At Little Plumpton, unfortunate residents just 350 metres from the site may also be subjected to night-time noise at 42 decibels. Sleep disturbance, particularly in vulnerable residents, can aggravate cardiovascular and arterial disease, impair cognitive function and impair learning in children.

“Despite industry claims of safety and ‘better regulations’, reports of air or water pollution and negative health impacts continue to accumulate.”

A spokesperson for Frack Free Lancashire added:

 “This new report validates our serious concerns about the potential health risks which will arise as a direct result of turning the Fylde into the largest onshore gas field in Western Europe.  The government has so far refused to consider minimum set-backs between fracking sites and places where people live, play and learn.

“With evidence mounting on the negative impacts from air, light and noise pollution that follow fracking wherever it imposes itself, this issue can no longer be conveniently swept under the carpet. We urgently call upon our MP, Mark Menzies, to recognise its importance and hold the government to account.”

Scope of the PHE review

The PHE review looked only at studies on the direct emissions of chemicals and radioactive material from the extraction of shale gas.

It did not consider studies of impacts of climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, sustainable use of water resources, noise and odour, traffic (apart from vehicle exhaust), occupational health or visual impact.

The first version was criticised for reviewing studies published only up to December 2012. According to an appraisal by Paul Mobbs, this excluded 52 studies published in 2013. An update considered peer-reviewed or published reports up to January 2014 but there was “no significant changes” to the findings.

“New evidence”

Claire Stephenson, who launched the petition and will also deliver it to PHE next week, said:

“Since that [PHE] report, hundreds of other health reports have been published with critical evidence that now needs to be taken into account before any shale activity should proceed within the UK.”

She cited two reports by the health professionals’ charity, Medact, one of which argued that greenhouse gas emissions from shale gas were incompatible with the UK’s commitment to address climate change.

Ms Stephenson said:

“Public Health England’s mission is: ‘to protect and improve the nation’s health and to address inequalities’

“If Public Health England is to fulfil their public duty and mission statement, then to not acknowledge and act upon the wealth of contraindications towards hydraulic fracturing, they could be in breach of their position and may face a legal challenge.”




23 replies »

  1. “….many findings in the public health literature on oil and gas development are sometimes inconsistent and studies often lack the designs to arrive at causal claims, the body of literature serves as an indication that proximity to oil and gas development is associated with adverse health risks and impacts…” quoted from the study.

    If anyone who has a scientific background or professional education would quick understand that there are potential risk and impact but there is no evidence-based for a causal claim of gas production sites on these health impacts.

  2. In related news…..a recent study revealed that nearly 60 million Americans live within a mile of an interstate highway. These individuals had higher asthma rates, neurological conditions, and ate more tuna fish than average Americans. In addition, the study also concluded that nearly 150 million Americans lived in cities or densely populated suburbs and tended to suffer from higher incidences of respiratory ailments, schizophrenia, and other cognitive disorders than the average American. Lastly, one study found that virtually all Americans live in America, and have benefited from the reduced emissions of co2 and particulates associated with coal burning electricity generation due to the increased reliance on natural gas brought about by fracking. These studies have found a causal relationship between fracking, improved respiratory functions, higher birth weights, increased sex drive, increased procreation levels, higher wages, and better general attitudes. Anomalous readings registered around anti-fracking camps were discarded as outliers.

  3. A high level of obese people live within close proximity of US fracking sites. Perhaps that should be investigated by our Public Health Service? Just don’t bother to tell them a high level of obese people live in close proximity to nearly every industrial site in US.

    Never mind, let’s close down all operations in N.Sea as the workers on the rigs must be dropping like flies.

  4. The precautionary principle should still apply. Water and air quality are important, more important than gas our oil. Degrading these (using shale gas) less, say, than by using coal fire power generation is not an argument now that the UK is past that hurdle. And it is not taking into account that impacts of extraction, deterioration (long term legacy issues) and overall leakage which the industry still refuses to acknowledge. Causal pathways are complex, not linear and the evidence of contamination pathways are plentiful.

  5. Precautionary principle is a cop out. It would have stopped the wheel being developed as someone could end up under it! Simply, it is an argument used when people run out of valid objections. Goodness, no babies would be born if it was applied. Suppose it beats a headache.

    I have retired, but my two sons would be out of work if the precautionary principle was applied-one is an ambulance driver the other a builder. Another silly “invention” of the EU.

    I should resist the urge, but I can’t PhilipP, really scraping the bottom of the barrel now.

  6. Its 0.01% of the voting population Nick, thats 1 in 10,000 people. Thats is statistically insignificant. Public Health England look at all of these studies and they have rejected the body as inapplicable to the UK, or crap science. They are a statutory consultee, and responsible for this.

    This is just scraping the barrel of ‘news’. The news is that nobody really cares (except a few zealots).

    • And yet those that support fracking obtained circa 300 signatures to a letter in support of the police and this they (the supporters) deemed significant. The double standards are plain for all to see.

  7. Just as the physics of aviation and therefore planes and airports are totally different in the UK because we have different regulations here eh Ken?

    Reality check please. 4000 signatures requesting for further information on public health impacts from an area most likely to be affected by the industry is highly significant. Their concerns are completely warranted. [Edited by moderator]
    Cheap shot too Martin. Please educate yourself on the precautionary principle (origins and areas of application). Your ability to ‘invent’ stuff surpasses that of the EU. It’s origins predate the EU by many years.

  8. As there’s so little education and so much misinformation around on the state of global warming and the necessary achievements signed up to by Britain as part of the global community vis-a-vis the Paris Climate Agreement I thought I’d post this most clear and pithy summary – discovered today. Shale gas has not lived up to its promises in (overall) emissions reductions by the way.

    • It is this kind of revelatory information that needs to be broadcast by the main stream media. It’s the best presentation and source of knowledgeable information on the subject that I’ve seen. Thanks for posting it.
      Regarding the reported reduction of CO2 in the US; is this empirically proven? I’m aware of the studies that have shown the massive increase in methane emissions in the US since the exploitation of fossil fuels from shale started. Is this the primary reason why “Shale gas has not lived up to its promises in (overall) emissions reductions” or are there other reasons?

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