Fracking and Health Research Workshop - London 15/11/2013

This workshop was organised by the European Centre for Environment & Human Health (based in Exeter University, UK) in collaboration with the London School of Tropical Medicine and the US based Physicians Scientists & Engineers for Healthy Energy (PSE). The organisers set out to bring regulators, public health officials and researchers together to discuss research needs in relation health & wellbeing aspects of shale gas exploration & extraction.

Background:

In the 1990s, powerful new drilling techniques allowed natural gas to be extracted from previously unexploited deep geological formations (shales, tight sands, and coal seams). Subsequently, natural gas wells have begun to propagate in a number of countries within Europe including the United Kingdom and Eire. The European Union sits upon an estimated 10% of the World’s shale gas deposits. 

In the United States, shale gas has been rapidly ushered into the energy mix facilitated by the narrative that natural gas is a “bridge” or a “transition” fuel and will help the country to navigate from a coal and fossil fuel economy to one based on renewable energy technologies.  This narrative has received extensive criticism from environmental and public health researchers, and by impacted communities as reports of air pollution, fouled drinking water wells, seismic events, elevated radioactivity readings, explosions, and rapid industrialization of rural landscapes spreads across the United States. Although there is a growing body of literature on the ecological and human health implications of shale gas production, knowledge gaps persist in public health, climate, and environmental science literatures.  These gaps hinder the work of policy makers, NGOs, academics, and communities working to attenuate risks posed by shale gas production and distribution.

Aims of the Workshop:

The aim of this workshop is to bring together a trans-disciplinary group of scientists, researchers, industrial representatives, policy makers, politicians and leaders in society to review and consider the existing science and policy issues surrounding shale gas development in the UK and throughout the EU with respect to human health and wellbeing.  The meeting will provide an opportunity to share what is known, to discuss the evidence gaps that should be priorities for research and to offer recommendations as to what actions, if any, should be taken as fracking becomes more widespread.    Some important specific questions that will be addressed are:

  • What is known about air, water, and other environmental contamination from shale oil and gas development? 
  • What are key information gaps exist regarding impacts on the climate, ecosystem services, public health, communities and their economies?
  • Which are the most vulnerable populations in the EU to the known environmental and public health threats associated with shale oil and gas development?
  • What strategies to have been identified to mitigate current and future effects?
  • Which policy instruments would be most useful to regulate shale oil and gas activities already underway?
  • Which policy instruments are the most promising to ensure that scientific evidence and long term considerations (multi-generational timescales) are integrated into the policy decision -making processes in the UK and across the EU?
  • What are the obstacles to engagement among scientists, politicians, policymakers, leaders in society, industrialists and the general public?

View the Workshop Presentations:

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