Intended for healthcare professionals


Public Health England’s draft report on shale gas extraction

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 17 April 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g2728
  1. Adam Law, clinical assistant professor of medicine 1,
  2. Jake Hays, program director2,
  3. Seth B Shonkoff, executive director 3,
  4. Madelon L Finkel, professor of clinical public health1
  1. 1Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, NY, USA
  2. 2Physicians Scientists & Engineers for Healthy Energy, New York, NY 10019, USA
  3. 3Physicians Scientists & Engineers for Healthy Energy, University of California, Berkeley, Oakland, CA, USA
  1. hays{at}

Mistaking best practices for actual practices

Global interest in developing unconventional natural gas reserves continues to increase, despite the paucity of empirical evidence on risks to the environment and human health. The operations required to produce natural gas from hydrocarbon reservoirs such as shale are spatially intense and sometimes occur close to human populations. Although research has been conducted to understand the potential impacts of gas development on public health, for the most part these efforts fall short. In addition, efforts to summarise the existing public health science tend to focus on regulations and engineering solutions, rather than on health outcome data and pathways of exposure. A focus on mostly hypothetical regulatory and engineering solutions may mistake best practices for actual practices, and supplants the empirical with the theoretical.

To the extent that they are technically and economically feasible, risk reduction technologies that mitigate adverse health outcomes should be …

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