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. As a precautionary measure we should ban renewables energy because the more of it without reliable backup supply the more blackout we will have that cause shut down of service such as emergency hospital and essential public srevice. There is precautionary approach for those want to apply it blindly.

    • The obvious answer – don’t apply it blindly. I’d bank on the future developments of storage surpassing the future of shale gas in this country. Far less risk, and much cleaner. Ask Statoil – they’ve had stakes in fracking exploration all over the world including China and (of course) Norway… no commercial prospects apart from the USA do to the nature of the shale formations.

      • Phil P. Even with storage it will hold enough energy fir max 48hrs. If wind dont blow for 2 days and sun doesnt shine for 2 days we are stuffed. With an efficiency of 25% of its total generation capacity renewable will always struggled to be the reluable base load. I do bot disagree with more renewable to complement and reduce dependency on fossil fuel as much as possible but it is dangerously unrealistic by some green acitvist to push for 100% without reliable energy supply. This unrealistic thinking is exacerbated by the inevitability of wide spread uses of electric vehicles in the next few years.

        • You continue to live in the past TW. Like some others on these pages you seem to believ there’s a switch to be thrown omewhere that will suddenly make shale gas available everywhere in the UK. Even if you look at the present battery storage capacity here it surpasses any ability to meet demand from shale gas – currently stands at zero. Move forward 10 years and storage is projected to have displaced any need for gas powered ‘peakers’ at least by 2025. Move forward another 10 years and renewables plus storage is projected to be a major player in base-load capacity. These are fairly conservative estimates based on Australian and German figures. How many years do you think it would take to get UK shale gas (onshore) to make even a dent on our overall energy needs?

          Electric vehicles can even be factored into the grid smoothing equations .. as described here (skip to 8mins if short of time):

          • Shale gas may not be economic like you and other hope it to be but if it is economical viable uk shale gas will be available everywhere in uk because it will be distributed via the grid.

            • That’s such a long term prospect even if shale formations are favorable that it’s sure to tank commercially after a few years as the true costs and impacts are better understood and cleaner energy overtakes – achieving better returns and more public acceptance.

  2. PhilipP-lift up your gaze. You are currently showing the limit of your horizon, not the limit for fracking. Perhaps time for a little more research?

  3. Yes, Malcolm it is correct. And it is correct the opposite is correct in Germany. But, the media want to trash Trump and build up Merkel, so you will have to do a little homework to find the facts. All a little inconvenient as it helps to explain why Trump was adverse to using US $s to finance others who were unwilling to pay their own bills. But, whatever the media try, eventually the facts come through.

  4. Hi Malcolm. Agreed that mainstream media should get up to speed with the climate change issues without the nonsense perpetuated by the deniers. However with Youtube getting 4 billion hits a day globally it’s hard to say what the mainstream media is any more. A flagship documentary on a major channel is no guarantee that it will be seen by a majority of viewers. But the BBC is falling well short of its remit to inform and educate in this area – apart from the odd mention by Attenborough.

    Regarding reported reduction of CO2 in the US … that is quite misleading. Methane extraction and usage adds to CO2 (and methane) in the atmosphere considerably, but less so than the calculated amounts you would get from continued reliance on coal burning (for energy) and/or coal gas for domestic supplies. It can only be quoted as helping reduce overall emissions in the sense that it leads to less than the projected emissions you’d get from dirtier forms of energy. It simply does not apply to those States (in the US) that have not been overly reliant on large scale power generation from coal using inefficient older generation power plants already. The shale gas industry often gets mentioned as a ‘bridge fuel’ in the transition to cleaner energy – but even this argument is being called into question now that both upstream and downstream leakages and inefficiencies of the industry overall are being analysed with greater accuracy.

    Not only is methane a far more potent green house gas in terms of temperature forcing it degrades in the atmosphere (oxidises) to mostly CO2 anyway, so you get the double whammy of potent but short term GHG plus the much longer term effects of CO2.

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