Salient Health Quotes

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  • February 03, 2014

Kindly passed on to us from one of the Balcombe team:

I am a concerned resident of Balcombe who, like many others does not wish to see the government investing in an industry that is so detrimental to communities. Given that the government’s plan is to expand greatly the number of drilling operations across our countryside, it would seem very likely that the Balcombe drilling will not be the only one planned for our area. I thought you may be interested in the health research papers into the health effects of living close to drilling operations. Some of the effects found in children living near drilling operations (bleeding noses, running eyes, headaches etc) have lead legislation to be passed in Australia and the US that limits proximity of these operations to residents and schools. I have heard that a standard of not within 2km has been set in Australia. This leads many of us to be extremely concerned, particularly as most of our village of Balcombe, including the school, is within 1.5 k of Cuadrilla’s operations and I hope you will consider the following carefully.

Below are some salient points I picked out of the various research papers attached:

Research of Dr Theo Colborn an Endocrine Specialist of Florida University:

This exploratory study was designed to assess air quality in a rural western Colorado area
where residences and gas wells co-exist
Sampling was conducted before, during, and after
drilling and hydraulic fracturing of a new natural gas well pad. Weekly air sampling for 1 year
revealed that the number of non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHCs) and their concentrations were
highest during the initial drilling phase and did not increase during hydraulic fracturing in this
closed-loop system. Methylene chloride, a toxic solvent not reported in products used in drilling
or hydraulic fracturing, was detected 73% of the time; several times in high concentrations. A
literature search of the health effects of the NMHCs revealed that many had multiple health
effects, including 30 that affect the endocrine system, which is susceptible to chemical impacts at
very low concentrations, far less than government safety standards. Selected polycyclic aromatic
hydrocarbons (PAHs) were at concentrations greater than those at which prenatally exposed
children in urban studies had lower developmental and IQ scores. The human and environmental
health impacts of the NMHCs, which are ozone precursors, should be examined further given
that the natural gas industry is now operating in close proximity to human residences and public.

Bamberger and Oswald (Cornell University):

Communities living near hydrocarbon gas drilling operations have become
de facto laboratories for the study of environmental toxicology. The close
proximity of these operations to small communities has created a variety of
potential hazards to humans, companion animals, livestock and wildlife

Animals, especially livestock, are sensitive to the contaminants released into
the environment by drilling and by its cumulative impacts. Documentation of
cases in six states strongly implicates exposure to gas drilling operations in
serious health effects on humans, companion animals, livestock, horses, and
Without complete
studies, given the many apparent adverse impacts on human and animal health, a ban on shale gas drilling is essential for the protection of public health)

Conclusion of an independent health study commissioned by a GP in Australia in TARA region
McCarron report 2013

Health impact assessments must be an integral part of any and every unconventional gas development. No new permit should be issued without one, and health impact assessments should be carried out for every development already in place.

A fully funded comprehensive medical assessment of residents currently living in proximity to unconventional gas development should be carried out as a matter of urgency.

Here is the abstract for a piece of work quoted in McCarron, The reference is McKenzie, L. M., Witter, R. Z., Newman, L. S., & Adgate, J. L. (2012). Human health risk assessment of air emissions from development of unconventional natural gas resources. Science of The Total Environment, 424(0), 79-87:

Background Technological advances (e.g. directional drilling, hydraulic fracturing), have led to increases in unconventional natural gas development (NGD), raising questions about health impacts.
Objectives: We estimated health risks for exposures to air emissions from a NGD project in Garfield County, Colorado with the objective of supporting risk prevention recommendations in a health impact assessment (HIA).
Methods: We used EPA guidance to estimate chronic and subchronic non-cancer hazard indices and cancer risks from exposure to hydrocarbons for two populations: (1) residents living >½ mile from wells and (2) residents living ≤½ mile from wells.
Results: Residents living ≤½ mile from wells are at greater risk for health effects from NGD than are residents living >½ mile from wells. Subchronic exposures to air pollutants during well completion activities present the greatest potential for health effects. The subchronic non-cancer hazard index (HI) of 5 for residents ≤½ mile from wells was driven primarily by exposure to trimethylbenzenes, xylenes, and aliphatic hydrocarbons. Chronic HIs were 1 and 0.4. for residents ≤½ mile from wells and >½ mile from wells, respectively. Cumulative cancer risks were 10 in a million and 6 in a million for residents living ≤½ mile and >½ mile from wells, respectively, with benzene as the major contributor to the risk.
Conclusions: Risk assessment can be used in HIAs to direct health risk prevention strategies. Risk management approaches should focus on reducing exposures to emissions during well completions. These preliminary results indicate that health effects resulting from air emissions during unconventional NGD warrant further study. Prospective studies should focus on health effects associated with air pollution.

I would also like to quote my worrying answer to questions about flaring received by the EA:

When determining the mining waste permit we were satisfied that the combustion of natural gas would not result in pollution or harm to human health. In determining the permit we consulted public health England and our own air quality experts can draw on a wealth of experience related to landfill gas flare emissions.

I feel concerned that this does not appear to take into account the fact that this drilling goes extremely deep into the ground and will be a combination of gases and chemicals related to drilling for hydrocarbons and what the cumulative effects of those might be? As the studies above suggest, there will be many more harmful substances released than just natural gas. Not, I believe the same as on waste dumps? There are no studies to show this is safe in this country and all the one’s from abroad say it is not. Where is the precautionary principal here? I am highly concerned that the EA told me our health is not their concern, in which case, whose concern is it?

The EA also sent me this:

Protection of people’s health falls to a huge range of organisations, from the local authority to the water companies, the HSE, PHE and ourselves. The way we do it is through regulating releases to the local environment and the level of emissions allowed is based in part on the effects on people and the environment of exposure to different pollutants at different levels. We consult with PHE to make sure that any application is assessed appropriately and seek comments from them.

What we have found is an industry that splits responsibility aspects of the drilling operation between the HSE, EA, PHE, WSCC and the DECC. When we raise questions they often seem to pass responsibility for a particular issue onto another agency to the extent that it is extremely difficult to get clear answers from any of them. The DECC and the EA for instance often seem to bounce queries about the flaring back to each other and have, in fact, contradicted each other in their answers to me. The DECC in particular have send out standardised letters to all of us, which in my case did not answer my question at all and belied the fact they had not read my original query. I’m afraid to say I feel Mr Maud my MP has done the same. There appears to be a worrying lack of overview being taken by anybody and an extremely worrying tendency to allow the industry to self-regulate. As with the sound levels in the drilling operations, we found that Cuadrilla did not self-regulate, exceeded noise levels and were only moved to do something after residents had taken action of buying their own noise monitoring equipment. I live well into the village and yet had to keep my windows shut to stop hearing the drone of noise.

I have also raised concerns with Donald Dobson of the HSE, who I gather used to work in this industry. He replied to me that he was aware of no mal-practices on the part of Cuadrilla. This is surprising since it has been well publicised that Cuadrilla were rebuked by government ministers for failing to report a cracked well, and also given that we know they continued to drill for 3 months beyond their allowed time in Lancashire. We also found that Cuadrilla resources sent tankers of dangerous chemicals through our village during school pick-up time despite a written agreement that they would not do so, this continued for days despite no specific protestor action obstructing their way and amid continual complaints from residents. I’m afraid I found Donald Dobson all too brief in his replies to me.

I hope you will take the time to seriously consider the health implications of living close to these rigs and the fact that this should not be happening in built up areas. Please bear in mind just how close our village is to this, less than 600 m down-wind in many cases. Indeed I think the risks are too high for it to be happening at all.

Even if there are no leaks of fluid into the water-table, local fields or crashes involving lorries (which has caused terrible fires abroad) fracking just doesn’t add up. 5-10 olympic swimming pools worth of water per frack, per well, 8-15 wells per square mile…where does all the water come form and where does the contaminated water safely go? Incidentally one of the main concerns where water is concerned near Balcombe is that, according to geologists there are indeed fault lines in this area and that is known to be a source of migration of frack fluids.

This is why so many residents of Balcombe, over 200 residents by our estimates, were at the protest site in Balcombe across the summer. Remember we have had the luxury of a couple of years now to research and find out about this industry. The early BPC poll concluded that 82% of correspondents were anti-fracking, while the door to door survey revealed 85%. ‘Fracking’ itself is a very small part in the life of a well, the drilling, exploratory, well-testing and well completion phases, are just as dangerous, as can be seen from the evidence cited.

I gather there is some suggestion that this will somehow create local jobs? As far as I’m aware all the security guards and drivers were specialists from out of town as are the drill workers. I wonder if you are taking into consideration the numbers of jobs that will be lost as a result of this? Particularly in the tourism industry. Who will want to visit a landscape of 8-15 wells per square mile and all the associated compressor stations, pipe-line, roads and traffic? The government’s recent AMEC report detailing 50 truck movements per day, actually means 100 in layman’s terms, as we found to our detriment, a movement consists of an inward and outward journey, and these were huge tankers of chemicals. What about farmers whose fields and animals are threatened? I have had my house on the market for months now and have been told that estate agents have said we have fracking ‘hanging over us’, we have had to drop price and have not had the interest in our property we would hope. Indeed it appears that Balcombe properties are not performing in line with national trends . I hope you will consider carefully the impact this has already had on our once peaceful community and the further negative impact it will have on ours and others like it.

If none of these things causes you concern then I feel the fact that climate change is occurring, and that it is linked to human activity should do. All wells have been shown to leak and fugitive emissions of methane (more concerning than carbon dioxide) when added to the high levels of HGV traffic this industry involve, make this a very destructive practice.* This is not the industry of the future. If all countries try to go for fracking in the same way that America has, the earth simply will not be able to support it without it being a major contributor to climate change and pollution incidents. I’m sorry to say that this government seems to be blighted by short term thinking. Please research very carefully this industry and look to the university professionals that are studying it, rather than the oil and gas industry to give you a balanced viewpoint before you decide whether to support it or not. I look forward to hearing your response to the health research papers I attach.