Public Health England
Publication date: October 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. 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 have been 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.
This report is being published as a draft ‘for comment’ for one month, from the 31 October to 29 November 2013. The report includes an addendum indicating recently published papers that have been reviewed, but have not yet been incorporated into the main body of the report. PHE would welcome comments on any additional peer reviewed or published reports in the scientific literature that are relevant to the scope, findings and recommendations. PHE will update the report on the basis of any additional significant scientific evidence before final publication.
Please send any relevant additional scientific evidence to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Last reviewed: 30 October 2013