Know How: Blog


Health Impacts From Shale Gas Development – Many Studies Are Inconclusive



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A favorite tactic and an often used assertion made by the anti-fracing groups is that there are documented health impacts associated with those living near and around unconventional oil and gas activities. The alleged health impacts include cancer, asthma, headaches, nose bleeds and birth related issues.  A June, 2017 report by Resources for the Future (RFF) undertook an evaluation of these health impact studies and reached some interesting conclusions.

RFF reviewed 32 health-related studies, including a brief review of those that addressed the occupational hazards and impacts associated with silica and volatile organic compounds. The studies RFF evaluated covered birth outcomes, asthma development, hospitalization rates, cancer rates, self-reported health effects, a health impact study by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the above mentioned occupational health issues.  RFF found that many of the studies often had significant shortcomings; they reported contradictory results and all but one of the studies were unable to identify a cause and effect mechanism.

The RFF report includes a Risk-Benefit Matrix that summarizes the health impacts in an easy to read format that includes a key to RFF’s findings. While RFF doesn’t dismiss the effort put into many of the studies, they do question the methodology used and suggest further studies are needed to accurately assess health related impacts from unconventional gas well drilling and production.  In conclusion the report makes the following statement:

“Overall, we find that the literature does not provide strong evidence regarding specific health impacts and is largely unable to establish mechanisms for any potential health effects. More study is therefore needed to properly inform communities of risks and also inform policymakers and oil and gas operators of methods for reducing these impacts on communities.” 

A copy of the full report can be found here:


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