Your deputy business editor and energy expert, Robin Pagnamenta, raises the prospect that fracking in the United States could receive a new kick start under the forthcoming Trump administration (“America’s frackers prepare for good times under President Trump,” The Times, Nov 21, http://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/business/us-fracking-industry-prepares-for-good-times-ahead-under-trump-zppz92s3g) if an oil industry executive is appointed to head the US Department of Energy.
It is also reported by the New York Times ( Nov 12 http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/12/science/myron-ebell-trump-epa.html) that Myron Ebell, an extreme deregulator, who is Director of Global Warming and International Environmental Policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington DC, has been given the role by the Trump transition team, to slim down - if not abolish altogether – the US Environmental Protection Agency.
But the incoming Trump administration should not act in such haste.
A study published by independent academic researchers at the University of Missouri at the end of 2013 found greater hormone- disrupting (so-called ‘gender-bender’ chemicals) properties in water located near fracking than in areas without drilling.
Endocrine disruptors interfere with the body’s endocrine system, which controls numerous body functions with hormones such as the female hormone estrogen and the male hormone androgen. Exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals, such as those studied in the MU research, has been linked by other research to cancer, birth defects and infertility. (for full study see: http://medicine.missouri.edu/news/0214.php).
Other US-based scientists at Yale University have found 55 fracking pollutants linked to cancer, including 20 associated with leukaemia or lymphoma. “These findings support the hypothesis that exposure to unconventional oil and gas development could increase the risk of leukaemia,” the recent study concludes.
The pollutants linked to leukaemia include benzene, cadmium, formaldehyde and several toxic types of hydrocarbons. More than 80 % of the 1,177 water pollutants and 143 air pollutants from the US fracking industry couldn’t be assessed for cancer risk because of a lack of data, the paper, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, states.
Moreover, research published in the US by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health that found levels of radon in Pennsylvania homes – where 42% of readings surpass what the US government considers safe – have been on the rise since 2004, around the time that the fracking industry began drilling natural gas wells in the state. (‘Increased Levels of Radon in Pennsylvania Homes Correspond to Onset of Fracking’, April 9, 2015; www.jhsph.edu/news/news-releases/2015/increased-levels-of-radon-in-pennsylvania-homes-correspond-to-onset-of-fracking.html)
In the UK, the heath watchdog, Public Health England, warned in a report published three years ago “If the natural gas delivery point were to be close to the extraction point with a short transit time, radon present in the natural gas would have little time to decay … there is therefore the potential for radon gas to be present in natural gas extracted from UK shale.”
(‘Shale gas extraction: review of the potential public health impacts of exposures to chemical and radioactive pollutants,’ 30 October 2013; https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/shale-gas-extraction-review-of-the-potential-public-health-impacts-of-exposures-to-chemical-and-radioactive-pollutants-draft-for-comment)