Public Health, Water & Air Pollution & Climate Change issues.

The information below is drawn from the three sources mentioned above plus the CHPNY compendium [5th Edition released 2018]. CHPNY stands for ‘Concerned Health Professionals of New York State’ and is made up mostly, but not exclusively, of Doctors, Nurses & Medical Academics. Their website is www.concernedhealthny.org this very important compendium is updated every six-12 months and is ‘open access’ to all, both researchers & public. All the research mentioned below has been approved and adopted by Concerned Health Professionals United Kingdom [CHPUK] Access at www.chpuk.co.uk

The Public Health review of HVHF was released by the New York State Department of Health [NYSDOH] also in December 2014. This report was the cornerstone of evidence used by the New York State Commissioner to issue a legally binding statement that prohibits HVHF in that State. This report can be accessed at www.health.ny.gov. The review lists dozens of health risks associated with HVHF and also that ‘there are significant uncertainties about the effectiveness of some of the mitigation measures in reducing or preventing environmental impacts that could adversely affect public health.’

Public Health etc

MVC [motor vehicle collisions], including fatal MVCs up by 50% since fracking boom began, especially on rural roads in fracking areas.

John Hopkins School of Public Health study found that indoor radon levels in Pennsylvania homes rising since 2004 when fracking arrived in State; radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer worldwide, after smoking.

University of Pittsburgh study linked low birthweight infants with fracking in three Pennsylvania counties.

North Dakota HIV/AIDS cases double between 2012-2014, Director of disease control attributes this to the ‘man camps’ and human trafficking for prostitution associated with the fracking industry.

Hospital Emergency Department use up by over 300% and ambulance calls up 200% since arrival of fracking industry in North Dakota.

Below I have summarised a small fraction of points from the 150 page CHPNY compendium which covers 16 major topics relating to HVHF. I have also put in some salient comments from New York State report. What has come out of the research in North America is that regulations are simply not capable of preventing harm. This is because some of frackings’ many component parts, which include the subterranean geological landscape itself, are simply not controllable. Add to this scenario human error and also ‘cutting corners’ to save time & money and this boom & bust industry is not safe to be regulated even by our Government agencies

Air pollution

Infant mortality rose six times above the normal background rate over three years since the advent of HVHF at Uintah, Utah.

University of Maryland study shows that fracking can pollute air hundreds of miles downwind of well pads.

281% increase in Volatile Organic Compounds [VOCs are known carcinogens and neurological disruptors] predicted at HVHF area of Eaglesford, Texas.

Research estimates total annual VOC emissions at fracking sites are equivalent to 100 million cars [USA currently has 150M cars on its roads].

Increased risk of congenital heart defects associated with living within ten miles of gas wells.

Dangerous levels of benzene in air around fracking sites; Health Official states ‘The concerns of the Public are validated’.

Decreased birth weight and increased premature birth rate [both predictors of increased risk of life long ill health] associated with women living closer to fracking sites, cause; air pollution.

American Lung Association states air quality in rural areas close to fracking sites now worse than air quality in urban areas.

The Colorado School of Public Health [2012] showed an increased risk of ill health, both cancer & non-cancer, of people living near frack pads.

Parts of Utah, previously with pristine air quality, now have levels of smog and pollution that rival downtown Los Angeles.

Albany University study shows eight highly toxic chemicals in air samples collected near fracking sites across five states. Most common were benzene & formaldehyde; 29 out of 76 samples far exceeded federal health & safety standards. Lead researcher stated ‘Cancer has a long latency, so you’re not seeing an elevation in cancer in these communities [yet]. But in five, 10, 15 years from now, elevation in cancer is almost certain to happen’.

Water Pollution

What is pumped into the wells at extreme high pressure is called the frack water or ‘frack fluid’. Even if this ‘frack fluid’ contains no added chemicals [a very unlikely scenario] what comes back up in the HVHF ‘flow back’ water poses serious health problems to humans. On average, 50% of the frack fluid returns as flowback water. The average fracked well uses 19,000,000 litres of water. Thus: thousands of millions of gallons of contaminated water will be present on the surface in the HVHF areas. This flowback will contain varying amounts of benzene [causes leukaemia, cancer and spina bifida], mercury [brain and kidney damage], arsenic [cancers], ethyl benzenes [respiratory disease, fatigue & headaches], toluene [birth defects & central nervous system damage] and volatile organic compounds [disrupts our endocrine system causing, lung, gut and reproductive disease]. There is no proven system in place to store or treat such vast quantities of toxic liquid and its risk to local residents’ health is obvious. No definitive plan or answer to this flowback water problem has yet been given by the HVHF industry to our Government.

HVHF wells have significant leakage/ integrity problems in both the short & long term. Percentage of leaking wells varies from 5% [immediately], to 50+% at 15 years. The earthquakes triggered by fracking damage both the well casing and also the cement, further increasing the well failure rates. Industry has no solutions for rectifying this chronic problem.

Cornell University study showed that fracking fluid and the flow back water interfere with the ability of soil to bond to and sequester pollutants such as heavy metals. Thus fracking fluids may release from soils an additional repository of contaminants that could migrate into ground water.

Many confirmed cases of drinking water contamination from fracking in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia & Texas, thus casting doubt on Industry view that this rarely or never happens. A Pennsylvania Court found a gas corporation guilty of contaminating a home owner’s drinking water; methane levels were 1,300 to 2,000 times higher than the baseline.

U.S. Geological Survey [USGS] study of groundwater pollution at HVHF site in North Dakota found that an area of 12 square miles was the result of a well casing failure. Another USGS report into fracking states ‘the knowledge of how extraction affects water resources has not kept pace with the technology’.

Oil & Gas operators generally opt for out of court settlements that include ‘non-disclosure’ agreements [gagging clauses]. This strategy keeps data from regulators, policymakers, the media and health researchers and makes it difficult to challenge the claim that fracking has never tainted anyone’s water.

Investigative Journalists uncover at least 161 cases of water contamination from fracking between 2008-2012 in Pennsylvania.

Colorado State data reveals more than 350 instances of groundwater contamination resulting from more than 2,000 spills from oil & gas operators over five years.

Stanford, Duke & Ohio State joint assessment of fracking data shows that vertical fractures can propagate to over 600m upward, thus risking contaminating any water sources. The Fermanagh area planned is for shallow fracking.

EPA concedes that insufficient baseline drinking water data & lack of long term systematic studies limited the power of its findings; meaning the contamination the EPA found near fracking sites could be easily denied by the Industry.

Stanford University researchers document that fracking in shallow layers of bedrock, including those that serve as drinking water aquifers, is not uncommon. This is because the HVHF industry is exempt from the Safe drinking Water Act.

EPA examination of water contamination across USA concludes that ‘construction issues, sustained casing pressure and the presence on natural faults & fractures can work together to create pathways for fluids to migrate to drinking water resources.’

Chesapeake Energy Corporation fined $900,000 in 2011 for improper well casing & cementing that resulted in contamination of 16 private drinking water wells via underground migration of methane.

West Virginia EPA confirmed that three private drinking water wells were contaminated by a fracking company when it mistakenly drilled into its own well, resulting in benzene being detected in the drinking water at four times the legal maximum limit.

Pennsylvania EPA fine drilling company $4,500,000, in 2014, for contaminating groundwater due to leaking frack waste-water pits.

Environmental Science Journal article claiming no connection between fracking and methane in nearby water had to subsequently corrected when it was discovered lead author was funded by HVHF industry.

USGS & Virginia Tech University establish that petroleum based hydrocarbons can breakdown underground & promote leaching of arsenic into groundwater.

Cuadrilla [UK HVHF Company] knew about problems with their well bore integrity but did not report this to the regulators. They also failed to carry out seismic surveys, as recommended, prior to their fracking. That frack triggered two earthquakes and damaged their well casing, increasing the risk of cement failure and thus leakage.

University of Missouri team tested chemicals used in one frack area. Of the 24 fracking chemicals tested, all 24 interfered with one or more hormone receptors in humans. There is no safe level of exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals.

Climate Change

Methane is 86 times more potent at trapping heat [greenhouse gas] than carbon dioxide over a twenty year period. Methane leakage seriously worsens climate change. The Medical community now has very strong evidence that climate change has a serious negative impact on public health, and this impact will only worsen in the future if we don’t act. Methane leakage rate is averaging at least 8% from HVHF wells, up from 6% five years ago. Even at a very low 2 or 3% leakage rate methane is still much more damaging for climate change over the medium [20 year] or long-term [100 year] time span than carbon dioxide produced by coal fired power stations.


Dr. Carroll O’Dolan.   MRCGP [Member of the Royal College of General Practitioners]