Fracking is a term used to describe the process of high volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) for unconventional shale gas deposits deep underground. Water, sand and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure which allows the gas to flow out to the head of the well.
Health concerns have been raised in the US where fracking has been practised on a large scale for over a decade, relating to management of the waste water produced, the risk of leakage of gases and chemicals into surrounding air and water, the nuisance effects, and socio-economic impacts.
The Faculty of Public Health endorses the findings of an updated 2016 report from Medact that examines the evidence set out in over 350 academic papers published since the original Medact report in 2015, looking at the impact of fracking on local communities, the natural environment and climate change. The Faculty supports the call for an ongoing and permanent moratorium on fracking due to the possible serious public health risks involved, which include:
- Adverse reproductive outcomes due to exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals;
- Risk of respiratory effects resulting from ozone and smog formation;
- Stress, anxiety and other psycho-social effects arising from actual and perceived social and economic disruption; and
- The indirect effects of climate change produced by greenhouse gas emissions.
The 2016 report from Medact is supported by a detailed and fully referenced set of long notes about fracking as a public health issue, covering climate change, energy policy, carbon budgets and alternatives to shale gas.