The Environmental and Occupational Health Impacts of Unconventional Oil and Gas Industry

From the American Public Health Association ;

The process of extracting oil and gas by unconventional methods from underground formations involves injecting high volumes of fresh water, chemicals, and proppants at high pressure into deep geological formations as a means of enhancing the extraction of hydrocarbons. This technique has vastly increased the potential for domestic oil and gas production and has been promoted as a way to decrease dependence on foreign energy sources, replace dirtier energy sources such as coal, and generate new jobs and economic development. At the same time, unconventional oil and gas (UOG) poses various known and unknown risks to public health and the environment, including water quality and quantity concerns, worker health and safety issues, air quality problems and methane leaks, health effect concerns (including those for vulnerable populations), physical hazards, community-level impacts, and climate change effects. This policy statement is intended to cover the risks associated with the entire UOG process, including site preparation, drilling and casing, well completion, production, transportation, storage and disposal of wastewater and chemicals, and site remediation. In lieu of a strategic, national transition away from UOG—and other fossil fuel—development, policies that anticipate public health threats, require greater transparency, involve a precautionary approach, require comprehensive environmental impact assessments, and provide for monitoring and adaptation as understanding of risks increases are suggested to prevent or mitigate the negative occupational and public health impacts of UOG development.