Fracking emissions a “low” risk to public health
A draft report from Public Health England (PHE) published this week reviews the potential health impacts of shale gas extraction, focusing on the potential impact of chemicals and radioactive material from all stages of the process.
According to Dr John Harrison, director of PHE’s centre for radiation, chemical and environmental hazards, the potential risks are low, if operations are properly run and regulated.
Good on-site management and regulation of all aspects of exploratory drilling, gas capture as well as the use and storage of fracking fluid is essential to minimise the risks to the environment and health.
The study concludes that any contamination of groundwater, if it occurs, is likely to be caused by leakage through the vertical borehole – therefore good well construction and maintenance is essential to reduce the risks of ground water contamination.
Contamination of groundwater from the underground fracking process itself is unlikely because of the depth at which it occurs.
The report also makes a number of recommendations including the need for environmental monitoring to provide a baseline ahead of shale gas extraction in the UK, so that any risks from the operation can be appropriately assessed.