Wednesday, October 31, 2012


The public health implications of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to harness natural gas are still not well understood, as research into the practice “is in its infancy,” said Roxanna Witter of the Colorado School of Public Health.

“This is really a very, very, very new literature,” Witter said yesterday during a session on “Fracking — Public Health Implications of Shale Gas Development.” “This is good for the time limitations of (this) presentation, but not for anything we’re attempting to do in scientific knowledge.”

Presenter Dallas Burtraw, a researcher with Resources for the Future, talked about acknowledging how the use of natural gas can be a good thing, especially considering that a gas-fired power plant would have much lower emissions than a coal-fired plant. But he also acknowledged a lack of any studies examining the long-term health effects of fracking.

He cited many possible benefits of fracking, such as cheaper electricity, cheaper home and commercial heating, and the possibility of reducing oil consumption in transportation. And one of the “big issues on the table,” even in the face of health concerns, is the economic revitalization of some areas, he said.

However, even the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is noting possible water contamination at fracking sites, such as in Pavillion, Wyo. In fact, the literature review Witter conducted found evidence of water and air contamination linked to fracking.

The National Resources Defense Council is so opposed to fracking, the organization has a “Don’t Get Fracked” page dedicated to helping people learn about the health dangers of fracking and how to stay informed. They put it this way: “Although drilling can create jobs and income, many fear the effects of drilling on their health, land and quality of life. Current laws need to be changed to catch up with the drilling explosion.”

Click here to read more about the public health effects of fracking in The Nation’s Health.

— D.C.

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