Public Health England (part of the Department of Health) has completed a comprehensive review of the potential health impact of shale gas extraction. The review found that the potential risks to public health from exposure to the emissions associated with shale gas extraction will be low if the operations are properly run and regulated.1
For this study and, in addition to the natural gas released in the process, they noted that that extraction will produce emissions because of the industrial processes on site such as engines to power drills and compressors to capture gas.
The US Environmental Protection Agency says that there have been well-documented air quality impacts in areas with active natural gas development, with increases in emissions of methane, volatile organic compounds and hazardous air pollutants. Methane emissions from shale gas sites in the US have fallen by 73% since 2011.2
It is important to note that many of these emissions are also produced in significant quantities from other sources, including industry and transport, and from atmospheric processes. There will also be an existing background level of both primary and secondary pollution.
Professor Richard Selley from Imperial College London said: “Whilst there are cases of ill health in the USA related to hydraulic fracturing for shale gas, these result from unsafe practices, such as storing flow back fluids in open pits; and using them to de-ice roads; practices that would never be allowed in the UK.”