Fracking

Fracking risk to public health ignored, says doctor

By: Information Daily Staff Writer
Published: Thursday, April 17, 2014 - 23:30 GMT Jump to Comments

The government favours potentially ineffective regulation of shale gas extraction over a real exploration of its potential health risks, claims a doctor writing for BMJ.com.

Efforts to identify the risks of shale gas extraction have fallen woefully short, says Dr Seth Shonkoff, Executive Director for Physicians Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy (PSE).

Writing for online medical journal BMJ.com, Dr Shonkoff warns that industry regulation will not adequately protect the public if it is not based on strong and scientific evidence.

“Best practices should not be mistaken for actual practices”, Dr Shonkoff explains, adding that regulation of the industry “requires more than merely gesturing to technological improvements”.

Recent criticisms of the fuel extraction method include that it risks polluting waterways, siphons away huge amounts of water otherwise stored for drinking, and contaminates the air with harmful gases.

“More attention should have been paid to drilling in areas that are densely populated”, Dr Shonkoff says, adding that there is a need for the “assessment of the public health infrastructure and the ability of healthcare professionals to respond to the risks presented by the development of the shale gas industry”.

Public Health England (PHE), however, has claimed that the risks to public health are “low”, believing that on-site management and appropriate regulation of exploratory drilling will suffice.

The method does have the support of many in government, who consider it a promising major energy resource for the UK. Energy Minister Michael Fallon says that the industry will be a major boost to the UK economy, but that such benefits do come at a cost to the environment.

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