Doctors diagnose ‘serious health risks’ of fracking

Doctors and other health professionals have added their weight to the campaign for an immediate moratorium on fracking in the UK as a new report from health charity Medact warns that exploratory drilling for shale gas poses a serious risk to public health.

The report – Health & fracking: the impacts & opportunity costs – claims that a suspension of activity is needed to allow time for a full and comprehensive impact assessment to be completed, instead of simply going “all out for shale” as David Cameron has previously stated.

“Climate change is the biggest long-term threat to global public health,” said report co-author Dr Patrick Saunders. “Suspending fracking now will also allow time for the independent UK Committee on Climate Change to complete its next assessment of the climate change risks.”

Impact assessment

The Medact report concludes that fracking generates numerous public health risks, including: –

Potential health hazards associated with air pollution and water contamination: these include toxins that are linked to increased risks of cancer, birth defects and lung disease. 
Negative health impacts associated with noise, traffic, spoilage of the natural environment, and local social and economic disruption. 
The indirect effects of climate change produced by greenhouse gas emissions. 

It has been supported by a letter, which calls for shale gas development to be put on hold, published in the British Medical Journal, signed by Medact and the Climate and Health Council and senior health professionals.

Growing concern

Fracking has already been suspended in Wales and Scotland over health and environment concerns, while New York State has banned it over health concerns.

Responding to the Medact report, Friends of the Earth energy and climate change campaigner Rose Dickinson said: “This report adds to the growing concern about the health risks of fracking. New York State has already banned fracking due to the serious risks to public health and both Wales and Scotland have put fracking on hold, with the Scottish Government committing to a full health impact assessment. 

“No community should be used as a guinea pig for the fracking industry. Lancashire County Council should listen to the growing evidence and the opposition from local people and refuse Cuadrilla’s application to frack in Lancashire next month.

“Not only does fracking pose high risks to health, but it isn’t compatible with tackling climate change when the world already has more fossil fuels than it can safely burn. Rather than trying to get ever more polluting fossil fuels out of the ground, Britain should concentrate on healthier solutions such as renewable power and energy efficiency.”

Luke Nicholls

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