Shale gas "low risk" to public health

Oil & Gas Division
,
9 Dec 2013

Public Health England (PHE) have reviewed the literature on the potential public health impacts of exposures to chemical and radioactive pollutants as a result of shale gas extraction and concluded that the currently available evidence indicates that the potential risks to public health in the vicinity of shale gas extraction sites are low if shale gas extraction is properly run and regulated.

Where potential risks were identified in the literature, the reported problems are typically a result of operational failure and a poor regulatory environment. Therefore good on-site management and appropriate regulation of all aspects from exploratory drilling, gas capture and the use and storage of fracking fluid is essential to minimise the risk to the environment and public health.

Most evidence suggests that contamination of groundwater, if it occurs, is most likely to be caused by leakage through the vertical borehole. Contamination of groundwater from the underground fracking process itself (i.e. the fracturing of the shale) is unlikely. However, other impacts such as spills and accidents above ground or emissions to air may also be potentially significant.

Read the full report on the PHE website