Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Fracking hazards are wider than seismic dangers - including radiation risks

The Times ran a front page report on 2 November  headlined "Johnson to ban fracking"  (https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/boris-johnson-to-ban-fracking-ck59rrz9s  concentrating  on the risks posed by seismic events (mini-earthquakes) provoked by the drilling process, as the reason ministers have responded to the warnings in the Oil and Gas Authority’s new report  of its analysis of test drilling on the Preston Road, near Blackpool in Lancashire. (https://www.ogauthority.co.uk/media/6149/summary-of-pnr1z-interim-reports.pdf)
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn quickly warned that if the Conservatives were to win the election next month, they might reverse the ban.

Indeed, in a written statement to Parliament on 4 November, Business and Energy Secretary, Andrea Leadsom, states: “an effective moratorium, will be maintained until compelling new [scientific] evidence is provided which addresses the concerns around the prediction and management of induced seismicity.”

But seismic shocks are not the only threat posed by fracking.

UK heath watchdog, Public Health England, warned in a report published almost exactly six years ago – 30 Oct 2013  -  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,’ 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))

Research published in the United States by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health confirms this serious problem, finding 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)


The health detriment of radon is not going to change, however many scientific reviews take place.


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