Fracking: The Harms and Risks to Health – Part 1

Introduction

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“…a significant body of evidence has emerged to demonstrate that these activities [fracking] are inherently dangerous to people and their communities.”1

Health is no longer considered to be simply the absence of disease. Since the 1950s the World Health Organisation has been defining health in much broader terms, recognising the many factors that influence our overall health. It is now accepted that the health and wellbeing of an individual or a community is determined by several interacting factors. These factors include; economic circumstances, the physical and social environment, psychological, behavioural and biological factors.

All of these factors are affected by the political, cultural, social and environmental contexts in which they sit. So, influences as diverse as; agriculture and food production, education, the work environment, living and working conditions, unemployment, water and sanitation, health care and social services, the political environment and governmental strategies and policies, all play their part in affecting our overall health. Current evidence is making clear that the fracking industry’s influence can extend into every single one of these areas (see the end of this section for an example).

In December 2014, with specific regard to unconventional shale gas exploration and extraction (UGEE, which includes fracking), Concerned Heath Professionals of New York (CHPNY) published the 2nd edition of the Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking1. For some time, the industry had exploited the newness of their method of fracking to deflect any questions about the health impacts, on the grounds that there is no supporting evidence. This compendium extensively documents significant and numerous impacts under each of the following headings:

  1. Air pollution
  2. Water contamination
  3. Inherent engineering problems that worsen with time
  4. Radioactive releases
  5. Occupational health and safety hazards
  6. Noise pollution, light pollution and stress
  7. Earthquakes and seismic activity
  8. Abandoned and active oil and natural gas wells (as pathways for gas and fluid migration)
  9. Flood risks
  10. Threats to agriculture and soil quality

  1. The Concerned Health Professionals of New York Compendium (December 2014) http://concernedhealthny.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/CHPNY-Fracking-Compendium.pdf

Continue to Part 2 –>