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Friday, February 28, 2014

Rush to data, not to judgment

We don’t know enough about the impacts of unconventional natural gas development on public health in order to adequately evaluate its risks, according to researchers from the University of Colorado and the University of Pittsburgh.

The rapid increase in unconventional natural gas (UNG) development in the United States during the past decade has brought wells and related infrastructure closer to population centers. This review evaluates risks to public health from chemical and nonchemical stressors associated with UNG, describes likely exposure pathways and potential health effects, and identifies major uncertainties to address with future research. The most important occupational stressors include mortality, exposure to hazardous materials and increased risk of industrial accidents. For communities near development and production sites the major stressors are air pollutants, ground and surface water contamination, truck traffic and noise pollution, accidents and malfunctions, and psychosocial stress associated with community change. Despite broad public concern, no comprehensive population-based studies of the public health effects of UNG operations exist. Major uncertainties are the unknown frequency and duration of human exposure, future extent of development, potential emission control and mitigation strategies, and a paucity of baseline data to enable substantive before and after comparisons for affected populations and environmental media. Overall, the current literature suggests that research needs to address these uncertainties before we can reasonably quantify the likelihood of occurrence or magnitude of adverse health effects associated with UNG production in workers and communities. 
The data vacuum surrounding unconventional natgas development – from baselines, to ongoing monitoring, to post-development – urgently needs to be filled.


  1. Agreed, but we never know about the long-term effects of something until we do it. We can make predictions and conduct risk assessments and we can take what we know, what we suspect, and conduct proper baseline monitoring, real-time and post monitoring, and review the data by being fact based and vigilant.

  2. Unfortunately the NG Industry is very well aware of the dangers surrounding their practices, which is why they are so concerned with avoiding baseline testing, risk assessments and monitoring. They are also incredibly concerned with any possibility of the truth about any contamination, whether it be surface water, ground water, air, noise or human health, hence the gag orders so commonly issued by the industry. We can't do the right thing for the people with the money and corruption of the NG Industry fighting us at all turns.