MYTH #4:DEBUNKED “Fracking poses no risk to public health.”

Link to FFR

Public Health England did a detailed report on the chemical and radiological risks, as a draft in 2013, and as a final report in 2014.


This stated:

"The currently available evidence indicates that the potential risks to public health from exposure to emissions associated with the shale gas extraction process are low if operations are properly run and regulated. Where potential risks have been identified in other countries, the reported problems are typically due to operational failure. Good on-site management and appropriate regulation of all aspects of exploratory drilling, gas capture as well as the use and storage of hydraulic fracturing fluid is essential to minimise the risks to the environment and health. (Dr John Harrison, Director for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards)


Regarding using examples from the UK, PHE also warn that

‘Caution is required when extrapolating experiences in other countries to the UK since the mode of operation, underlying geology and regulatory environment are likely to be different.’


Indeed! The pollution incidents that have occurred in the US are all down to poor fluid storage and handling, use of open pits that leak, and badly designed and sealed wells. UK regulations do not permit these activities.


The claim is made on the ‘Myths’ page that the PHE report is outdated, and many ‘studies’ have been done since that report.


This is false as PHE are tasked with evaluating all shale gas developments as can be seen on this link.



This states 'PHE is in regular dialogue with the Environment Agency to ensure that the protection of the public’s health is appropriately reflected in all aspects of the regulatory process'.


This means they are tasked with keeping up with latest developments as shale gas applications are proposed.


In this cover note they also state, ‘ we note that many of the industrial processes involved are not new. We have identified particular concerns including density and location of drilling, the need to ensure borehole integrity, transparency about the chemicals used and the importance of environmental monitoring.Overall, however, we do not regard shale gas exploitation as posing a significant regulatory challenge for the protection of local people’s health as a result of releases of chemical and radioactive pollutants. The PHE position remains, therefore, that the shale gas extraction process poses a low risk to human health if properly run and regulated.’


PHE were involved with the application made by Cuadrilla in Lancashire, in June 2015. The Environment Agency experts were happy with  the safety of what was proposed. This was all reported to the Planning Dept at Lancashire County Council as can be seen on this link.

PHE looked at some of the medical studies quoted by many protestors, and looked at the methodology of the ‘science’ quoted by many, to support their fears of health issues. Looking at pages 307 to 313, it can be seen that PHE consider that the oft quoted health studies use poor methodology, and do not reach the conclusions that newspaper headlines so often refer to.


Senior medics have dismissed all the claims of health impacts, birth defects, and cancers.


Page 308Further criticism of the Mckenzie et al (2014) research came from the Chief Medical Officer and Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in the USA. In a statement from the Department, the Chief Medical Officer said…we disagree with many of the specific associations with the occurrence of birth defects noted within the study.’


The Medact Report (which informed the letters to the British Medical Journal)

This what the Lancs CC Planning Dept report had to say about this oft quoted study, on page 311.

‘Unfortunately, one of the contributors (contributing to three of the report's six chapters – chapters 2, 4 and 5) has led a high profile campaign in the Fylde related to shale gas. Another contributor to the report (chapter 3) has previously expressed firm views on shale gas and has objected to this application. This has led to questions from some quarters about the report's objectivity. In light of these uncertainties it is not clear how much weight the County Council should attach to the report.’ (my emphasis)


Oh dear me!! PHE were not impressed!


The MEDACT report has also been dismissed in great detail by UKOOG, the oil and gas operators group, and was also criticised in The Times


In fact, Public Health in the US, is IMPROVING due to shale gas.  Coal is being displaced as a method of generating electricity, and coal is a well documented killer, and this has resulted in plummeting pollution levels of sulphur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen, particulates and heavy metals.


So, the scare stories do not apply in the UK.

But even so, all of the supposed cases of ‘poisoning’ and cancer have been dismissed by the US health authorities. They use poor drilling plans, let fluids leak away, cement wells poorly, use poisonous chemicals, and STILL they have no real issues. There are NO successful lawsuits based on health impacts ANYWHERE in the most litigious country in the world!


Click here for next debunking 'Regulation'

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