The third edition of the Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking has just been published by two organizations: the Concerned Health Professionals of New York and Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR). The compendium is a fully referenced compilation of the evidence outlining the risks and harms of fracking, bringing together findings from the scientific and medical literature, government and industry reports, and journalistic investigation.
The three editions have been released in fifteen months, which reflects the dramatic increase in the number of scientific studies on the impacts of fracking. The second edition, published last December, coincided almost exactly with the state of New York’s decision to ban high volume hydraulic fracturing.
According to the authors, the compendium “continues to exist in a moving stream of data.” Over 100 new peer-reviewed studies on the impacts of fracking have appeared since the 2nd edition was published, and over half of the total available studies that exist on the adverse impacts of shale and tight gas development have been published since January, 2014. The vast majority of these studies reveal problems.
According to a statistical analysis by PSE Healthy Energy:
- 69% of the studies on water quality found potential for, or actual evidence of, water contamination
- 88% of studies on air quality found elevated air pollutant emissions
- 84% of studies on human health risks found signs or indication of potential harm
The compendium points to several “emerging trends” in the literature, which go far beyond those identified in previous editions in terms of risk and certainty:
Growing evidence shows that regulations are simply not capable of preventing harm.
Fracking threatens drinking water.
Drilling and fracking emissions contribute to toxic air pollution and smog (ground-level ozone at levels known to have health impacts.
Public health problems associated with drilling and fracking, including occupationalhealth and safety problems, are increasingly well documented
Natural gas is a bigger threat to the climate than previously believed.
Earthquakes are a consequence of drilling and fracking-related activities in many locations.
Fracking infrastructure poses serious potential exposure risks to those living near it.
Drilling and fracking activities can bring naturally occurring radioactive materials to the surface.
The risks posed by fracking in California are unique.
The economic instabilities of fracking further exacerbate public health risks.
The Compendium’s final conclusion (p. 151):
“All together, findings to date from scientific, medical, and journalistic investigations combine to demonstrate that fracking poses significant threats to air, water, health, public safety, climate stability, seismic stability, community cohesion, and long-term economic vitality. Emerging data from a rapidly expanding body of evidence continue to reveal a plethora of recurring problems and harms that cannot be averted or cannot be sufficiently averted through regulatory frameworks.
“In the words of esteemed pediatrician Jerome Paulson, MD, there is ‘no evidence that…fracking can operate without risks to human health….Any claims of safety are based on wishful thinking.'”
It is no longer possible to look at the data and conclude that fracking is safe. Government agencies must act to protect the citizens they represent. If they fail to do so, citizens need to take local action to make sure their communities are protected.