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Fracking poses little risk to public health, but evidence is limited

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 01 November 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f6626
  1. Ingrid Torjesen
  1. 1London

Fracking to extract shale gas is unlikely to have a detrimental effect on the health of people living nearby, provided that operations are properly run and regulated, a report from Public Health England has concluded.

However, the body has admitted that little robust research has looked specifically at the health implications of fracking and that most of the existing data come from the United States, which has a different geology and may use different chemicals and procedures to the ones that could be used in the United Kingdom.

Fracking involves the pumping of water and chemicals into dense shale formations to push out gas and oil. The review by Public Health England’s centre for radiation, chemical, and environmental hazards, whose findings were published in a draft report on 31 October, focuses on the potential effects on health of the chemicals used and any radioactive material released.1

One of the risks the review looked at is the potential for contamination of groundwater. The report emphasises that the underground fracking …

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