Fracking: Implications for Human and Environmental Health

Publication Type:

Web Article


CHE | Collaborative on Health and the Environment (2010)






The Collaborative on Health and the Environment (CHE) is an international partnership committed to strengthening the scientific and public dialogue on the impact of environmental factors on human health...

Underlying all of CHE's activities is a commitment to strong, uncompromised science. CHE Partners share the conviction that under conditions of scientific uncertainty, when evidence of the potential for harm to human health and the environment is scientifically compelling, precautionary measures that emphasize exposure prevention should be undertaken.

After decades of declining US natural-gas production, a new and powerful drilling technique that fractures rock with high-pressure fluid is opening up vast shale-gas deposits in Texas, Colorado and now many parts of the Northeast.

Hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" injects tons of toxic chemicals into the ground in order to break up shale beds rich in natural gas. Researchers, health and environment experts, and community groups have expressed strong concerns about these chemicals contributing significantly to air and water pollution.

The shale gas reserves, however, are seen by a number of companies, states and landowners as an enticing economic opportunity that could reap billions while lowering residential heating bills. The Environmental Protection Agency began public hearings last March to investigate the issue, and a number of citizen protests have recently been held in regions where fracking is already being undertaken or proposed.

This CHE Partner call featured four leading researchers in different fields of expertise to discuss the potential human and environmental health implications of fracking.

Featured speakers included:

  • Sandra Steingraber, PhD, author of Living Downstream
  • Theo Colborn, PhD, President, The Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX)
  • Tony Ingraffea, PhD, PE, Cornell University
  • Weston Wilson, Retired EPA Region 8.

See: Poisoned profits : the toxic assault on our children

See: The Case for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Toxic Hazards

Sharon Wilson, Texas OGAP Organizer was flown to EPA headquarters in North Carolina to present four case studies of health impacts caused by natural gas extraction in the Barnett Shale. She met with the top rule makers in the Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards who are working on new rules for the oil and gas industry.

See: Barnett Shale Health Impacts - Case Studies

She brings our attention to the disruptive health impacts of mountain-top removal for frac sand in Chippewa, Wisconsin.  Read her post on Bluedaze, Mountain Top Removal for Hydraulic Fracturing Sand.

See: We Are Concerned Chippewa Citizens.