Frack free families
The research

Below I have listed some of the research available that suggests that unconventional gas extraction is unsafe.  I have not included any pro-fracking articles but I encourage you to get both sides of the argument, just bear in mind who is funding the research!


Concerned Health Professionals of New York compendium of scientific, medical, and media findings demonstrating risks and harms of fracking (unconventional gas and oil extraction)

Summary of the data indicating that unconventional gas extraction is hazardous to health, written by health professionals.

Health & Fracking: The impacts and opportunity costs Medact report. More health professionals argue that hydraulic fracturing for shale gas should be banned on public health and ecological grounds.

A Human Rights Assessment of Hydraulic Fracturing and Other Unconventional Gas Development in the United Kingdom Commisioned by the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation. This Report argues that the UK Government has a clear and urgent duty tofully investigate the human rights implications of fracking before authorising any exploratory or extractive fracking operations in the UK. It strongly recommends a moratorium on the conduct of fracking operations until such a time as a full, industry-independent, publicly funded Human Rights Impact Assessment has been properly undertaken and placed in the public domain.

Planning for fracking on the Barnett shale: urban air pollution, improving health based regulation, and the role of local governments Rachael Rawlins 2013. Virginia Environmental Law Journal  Vol 31 226-306. (skip to page 254)

This review shows how government bodies analysed data in an inappropriate way to claim there was no cancer risk in drilling area. This lead to a re-analysis of the data...see below.

Update Summary Report Occurrence of cancer, Flower Mound, Denton County, Texas Texas Department of State Health Services 2014

A clear breast cancer cluster is seen in the drill dense region of Flower Mound, Texas, which authors attempt to talk down but the figures speak for themselves.

Lymphoid leukaemia in children: Males: 5 incidences of lymphoid leukaemia, when only 3.9 were expected (could be fluke), females : 7 incidences, when only 3.1 were expected (that seems like a lot!). This result does not reach statistical significance (95% sig. confidence intervals 0.91, 4.65...if these figures straddle  1 it is not significant), which means there isn’t a strong enough trend (or enough data!) to be sure this isn’t a chance occurrence, but the trend is worrying in my opinion. Postcode assignment was used instead of distance from drill site/compressor station/pipeline etc which was a criticism that has not been addressed.

Birth outcomes and maternal residential proximity to natural gas development in rural Colorado Lisa M. McKenzie et al. 2014. Environmental Health Perspectives Advance Publication

In this large cohort study by John Adgate’s team at the Colorado School of Public Health researchers observed an association between density and proximity of natural gas wells within a 10-mile radius of maternal residence and prevalence of congenital heart defects and possibly neural tube defects. (Those living near the most wells had a higher prevalence of congenital heart defects)

Highly Elevated Atmospheric Levels of Volatile Organic Compounds in the Uintah Basin, Utah Detlev Helmig et al.  2014. Environ. Sci. Technol Advance Publication.

Annual VOC emissions were the equivalent of emissions from 100 million automobiles. These observations reveal a strong causal link between oil and gas emissions and accumulation of air toxins.

Estrogen and Androgen Receptor Activities of Hydraulic Fracturing Chemicals and Surface and Ground Water in a Drilling-Dense Region Kassotis CD et al. 2013. Endocrinology. Published ahead of print Dec 16, 2013.

‘The majority of water samples collected from sites in a drilling-dense region of Colorado exhibited more estrogenic, anti-estrogenic, or anti-androgenic activities than reference sites with limited nearby drilling operations. The data suggest that natural gas drilling operations may result in elevated EDC activity in surface and ground water.’

Investigation of Ground Water Contamination near Pavillion, Wyoming Di Giulio DC et al. 2011 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Report

Diethylene glycol, BTEX and many other contaminants found in wells near frack sites in Pavillion, Wyoming.

Town of Dish Air quality report

There were reports of health problems around compressors stations in the town of Dish, so the town paid for independent air quality inspectors. ‘Laboratory results confirmed the presence of multiple Recognized and Suspected Human Carcinogens in fugitive air emissions present on several locations tested in the Town of DISH. The compounds identified are commonly known to emanate from industrial processes directly related to the natural gas industrial processes of exploration, drilling, flaring and compression. The laboratory results confirmed levels in excess of TCEQ's Short Term and Long Term ESLs. In addition, several locations confirmed exceedences in a chemical identified by TCEQ with the capability for 'disaster potential'. ‘

An Evaluation of Water Quality in Private Drinking Water Wells Near Natural Gas Extraction Sites in the Barnett Shale Formation. Fontenot B et al. 2013. Environ. Sci. Technol. 47 (17): 10032–10040.

Researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington, Arlington, Texas evaluated private well water quality in aquifers overlying the Barnett Shale formation. Arsenic, selenium, strontium and total dissolved solids (TDS) levels in some wells within 3 km of active wells exceeded EPA MCLs. Levels of arsenic, selenium, strontium, and barium were lower at comparison sites located outside of 3 km from the wells, as well as outside the Barnett Shale region. Methanol and ethanol were found in 29% of samples. Researchers attributed the elevated levels to a variety of factors, including mobilization of natural constituents, the lowering of the water table, and faulty equipment.

Impacts of Shale Gas Wastewater Disposal on Water Quality in Western Pennsylvania Warner RN et al. 2013. Environ. Sci. Technol., 2013, 47 (20), pp 11849–11857  

A Duke University study found 226Ra levels in stream sediments (544–8759 Bq/kg) at the point of discharge were 200 times greater than upstream and background sediments (22–44 Bq/kg) and above radioactive waste disposal threshold regulations, posing potential environmental risks of radium bioaccumulation in localized areas of shale gas wastewater disposal

Fracking Boom Spurs Environmenal Audit

There is a distinct lack of public health data from either side of the argument. This news article published in nature goes into some of the reasons why. A lack of baseline monitoring of air and water quality hinder research, along with the usual difficulties of separating correlation and causality. What this article fails to address is the removal of information from the data pool due to individuals signing non-disclosure agreements in return for compensation payout's required to pay medical costs.

An Exploratory Study of Air Quality near Natural Gas Operations Colborn T et al. 2012. Human and Ecological Risk Assessment (n.d.): 1–22. Volume 20, Issue 1, 2014 86-105

In a recent study done by Colborn and colleagues, they examined the airborne chemicals due to the fracking process. Weekly air sampling for 1 year revealed that the number of non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHCs) and their concentrations were highest during the initial drilling phase and did not increase during hydraulic fracturing in this closed-loop system. Methylene chloride, a toxic solvent not reported in products used in drilling or hydraulic fracturing, was detected 73% of the time; several times in high concentrations. Selected polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were at concentrations greater than those at which prenatally exposed children in urban studies had lower developmental and IQ scores.

Human health risk assessment of air emissions from development of unconventional natural gas resources. McKenzie LM, Witter RZ, Newman LS, Adgate JL. Sci Total Environ. 2012 May 1;424:79-87

Estimates based on exposure to air emissions suggest residents living close to gas wells have a higher cancer risk. Residents living ≤½ mile from wells are at greater risk for health effects from natural gas development than are residents living >½ mile from wells. Subchronic exposures to air pollutants during well completion activities present the greatest potential for health effects. The subchronic non-cancer hazard index (HI) of 5 for residents ≤½ mile from wells was driven primarily by exposure to trimethylbenzenes, xylenes,and aliphatic hydrocarbons. Chronic HIs were 1 and 0.4. for residents ≤½ mile from wells and >½ mile from wells, respectively. Cumulative cancer risks were 10 in a million and 6 in a million for residents living ≤½ mile and >½ mile from wells, respectively, with benzene as the major contributor to the risk.

Natural Gas Operations from a Public Health Perspective. Colborn, Theo; Kwiatkowski, Carol; Schultz, Kim; Bachran, Mary (2011). Human and Ecological Risk Assessment: An International Journal 17 (5): 1039–1056.

In a study by Colborn and colleagues, they examined 353 out of 994 fracking chemicals identified by TEDX in hydraulic fracking operation. They found over 75% of the 353 chemicals affected the skin, eyes, and other sensory organs, 52% affected the nervous system, 40% affected the immune system and kidney system, and 46% affected the cardiovascular system and blood.

Increased stray gas abundance in a subset of drinking water wells near Marcellus shale gas extraction Jackson et al. 2013. PNAS 110: 11250-11255.

Methane was detected in 82% of drinking water samples, with average concentrations six times higher for homes <1 km from natural gas wells (P = 0.0006). Ethane was 23 times higher in homes <1 km from gas wells (P = 0.0013); Isotopic signatures (δ13C-CH4, δ13C-C2H6, and δ2H-CH4), hydrocarbon ratios (methane to ethane and propane), and the ratio of the noble gas 4He to CH4 in groundwater were characteristic of a thermally postmature Marcellus-like source in some cases.  

Review of Federal Hydraulic Fracturing Research Activities. Testimony before the Subcommittees on Energy and Environment Committee on Science, Space and Technology U.S. House of Representatives Ikeda, Robin (April 26, 2013). CDC web site. US Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

In April 2013, Dr. Robin Ikeda, Deputy Director of Noncommunicable Diseases, Injury and Environmental Health at the CDC testified to congress that EPA had documented contamination at several sites. In several cases EPA has determined that hydraulic fracturing was likely the source of the contamination.

Methane contamination of drinking water accompanying gas-well drilling and hydraulic fracturing Osborn, Stephen G.; Vengosh, Avner; Warner, Nathaniel R.; Jackson, Robert B. (2011-05-17). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 108 (20): 8172–8176.

A Duke University study found groundwater thermogenic methane contamination is of concern as it has adverse effect on water quality and in extreme cases may lead to potential explosion (no frack fluid or brine was detected).

Impacts of gas drilling on human and animal health Bamberger and Oswald. NEW SOLUTIONS, Vol. 22(1) 51-77, 2012.

Researchers interviewed livestock owners near gas wells and found animals were affected. Interesting to note the many different ways in which contamination of land or water occurred, the majority of which was contaminated spring water or pond/creek water. Small sample size and does describe itself as a preliminary study. (problems found at conventional wells as well as fracked wells but problems were greater at unconventional sites).

The Effects of Shale Gas Exploration and Hydraulic Fracturing on the Quality of Water Resources in the United States Avner Vengosh, Nathaniel Warner, Rob Jackson, Tom Darrah Procedia, Vol 7, 2013; 2013, Pages 863–866 .

Conference presentation, no published data yet, but one to watch: ‘By using geochemical (e.g., Br/Cl) integrated with oxygen, hydrogen, strontium, radium, and boron isotopic tracers, we have characterized the geochemical fingerprints of brines from several shale gas basins in the USA, including the Utica and Marcellus brines in the Appalachian Basin and the Fayetteville brines in Arkansas. We use these geochemical fingerprints to delineate the impact of shale gas associated fluids on the environment.’ Also contains a good review of water quality data in the Marcellus shale play.