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Public health effects of fracking in Spain

Monday, April 22th, 2013

Public health effects of fracking in Spain

The text on the impacts on public health and the environment from fracking technology, written by David Rojas-Rueda, researcher at CREAL, is an article published in Gaceta Sanitaria.

Fracking is a technique for extracting unconventional natural gas deposits by drilling gas that is trapped on a rocky substrate, for which it is necessary to inject pressurized water, sand and a mixture of chemical compounds. The Official Journal of the Government of Catalonia published on September 27th 2012 the request of two explorations to allow gas extraction through this technique, which will affect 70 municipalities in Catalonia.

Spain is a country with potential for gas extraction through fracking, applications are being processed for the exploration of gas fields through this technique in Basque Country, Cantabria, Castilla y León, and La Rioja.

Possible negative effects on the environment and health

There is scientific evidence of possible negative effects on the environment, including groundwater contamination, excessive water consumption and emission of pollutants into the atmosphere, among others.

Some studies suggest fracking risks to public health, including the emission of hydrocarbons such as benzene, 1,3-butadiene, styrene and ethylbenzene, potentially carcinogenic to humans, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer . It is estimated that the population living within one kilometre from where fracking takes place have a 66% higher risk of having a cancer associated with these pollutants. Other effects of fracking may include neurological, renal, reproductive, respiratory and haematological diseases.

Risk of water pollution

Risk of water pollution exists because fracking technology injects large amounts of water mixed with chemicals to replace natural gas extracted from the rocks. This contaminated water can enter the water cycle and contaminate local sources. It has been found that nearly three quarters of the chemicals used in fracking have numerous negative effects in health.

There is a the need for epidemiological studies and impact assessments in environmental and health, to strengthen permission based on evidence before granting for exploration to allow natural gas extraction through fracking, and prevent potential adverse impacts on public health and the environment.


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