Your environment editor’s report (“Fracking given green light by minister,” 25 July; https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/fracking-given-green-light-by-minister-0nkjks257) quotes Francis Egan, chief executive of fracking company Cuadrilla, as saying his company complies with "robust health, safety, environmental and planning regulations” covering fracking.
The UK Government’s heath watchdog, Public Health England, warned in a report published nearly five 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))
Such gas could be distributed directly into thousands of gas hobs across the nation’s kitchens.
In support of such concerns, 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)
Moreover, 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.
(for full study see: http://medicine.missouri.edu/news/0214.php)
Speaking in the Summer Adjournment debate in the Commons on Tuesday evening, Green MP Caroline Lucas criticised this fracking announcement for being “smuggled out on this last day before the recess.”She described it as “not just a kick in the teeth for localism; it is an extraordinarily perverse decision, given the reality of accelerating climate change…. The idea that now is a good time to give the green light to fracking, while making it more difficult, for example, to pursue renewable energy seems to be taking stupidity to new heights.”
In so speaking, she made a lot of sense.