Friday, 16 October 2020

Fracking's radiation risks and health hazards highlighted before Harvard

A shorter, redacted version of thi swas publshed in The Guardian Newspaper on 16 October 2020: I was very interested to read your environment editor’s report on recent research by Harvard University scientists on radiation risks from fracking. (“Fracking can increase radiation in the air by 40% say scientists,” 14 October) I have raised this concern in several (unpublished) letters to the Guardian over the past seven years. Indeed, seven years ago this month, the now dissolved watchdog, Public Health England said in its report Review of the potential public health impacts of exposures to chemical and radioactive pollutants as a result of the shale gas extraction, ( released on 31 October 2013) on pages 14 -15,: “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.” ( A few years later, on 26 January 2015, the influential Environmental Audit Committee published an important report analysis on the environmental impact of fracking. ( which cited my radiation risk concerns. The [British] Geological Society meanwhile, dissented, noting concerns relating to mobilisation of natural uranium but then stated “we are not aware of any evidence of harm.” Eight years ago, Dr Marvin Resnikoff, of Radioactive Waste Management Associates estimated radon levels from the Marcellus gas field in the eastern United States as up to 70 times the background average, further suggested some shale gas deposits contain as much as 30 times the radiation that is found in normal background. ( Moreover, the now late Professor of Physics, James W. Ring, from Hamilton College in New York State has stressed: "The radon and natural gas coming from the shale mix together and travel together as the gas is piped to customers. This is a serious health hazard, as radon - being a gas - is breathed into the lungs and lodges there to decay, doing damage to the lungʼs tissue and eventually leading to lung cancer." Hence there is undoubtedly a risk of radon gas being pumped into citizens' homes as part of the shale gas stream. Unless the gas is stored for up to a month to allow the radon's radioactivity to naturally reduce, this is potentially very dangerous.( a half-life of 3.8 days. Using the general rule of thumb of 10 half-lives to decay to 1/1000 of original concentration, that would be 38 days, or roughly one month, depending on how radioactive it was to start.) We know Radon is unquestionably the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. A report Radon and Public Health produced by then [UK] Health Protection Agency watchdog - the predecessor to PHE- in 2009 stated:“Exposure to radon is now recognised as the second largest cause of lung cancer in the UK after smoking and analysis for the Health Protection Agency indicates that about 1100 UK deaths from lung cancer each year are caused by exposure to radon (most caused jointly by radon and smoking.”(Report of an independent Advisory Group on Ionising Radiation: Docs RCE 11, HPA 2009: While fracking is, to coin a phrase, now on the energy policy back burner in the UK, President Trump is promising widespread expansion of fracking if he wins the election next month. This is another policy area where the President’s ignorance of the facts is dangerous. hy..../.gggghh

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