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Toward an Understanding of the Environmental and Public Health Impacts of Unconventional Natural Gas Development

While research continues to lag behind the rapid scaling of UNGD, there has been a surge of peer-reviewed scientific papers published in the past several years. By the end of 2015, over 80% of the peer reviewed scientific literature on shale and tight gas development has been published since January 1, 2013 and over 60% since January 1, 2014. This suggests an emerging understanding of the environmental and public health implications of UNGD in the scientific community. Yet, although numerous hazards and risks have been identified in studies to date, many data gaps remain. Notably, while there is now a far more substantive body of science than there was several years ago, there is still only a limited amount of epidemiology that explores associations between risk factors and health outcomes in human populations.

Between 1 January 2009 and 31 December 2015

  • 26 (84%) of the peer-reviewed studies contain findings that indicate public health hazards, elevated risks, or adverse public health outcomes and 5 (16%) contain findings that indicate no significant public health hazards, elevated risks, or adverse health outcomes associated with UNGD,
  • 40 (69%) of the peer-reviewed papers have findings that indicate potential, positive association, or actual incidence of water contamination associated with UNGD, while 18 (31%) have findings that indicate minimal potential, no association, or rare incidence of water contamination, and
  • 40 (87%) peer-reviewed studies have findings that indicate that UNGD increased air pollutant emissions and/or atmospheric concentrations, while 6 (12%) of the studies contain findings that provide no indication of significantly elevated air pollutant emissions and/or atmospheric concentrations.

Jake Hays and Seth B. C. Shonkoff
Toward an Understanding of the Environmental and Public Health Impacts of Unconventional Natural Gas Development: A Categorical Assessment of the Peer-Reviewed Scientific Literature, 2009-2015
PLoS One, Published: April 20, 2016

See also:
Daisy Pistey-Lyhne, Study: New Analysis Reveals that Majority of Peer-Reviewed Science Show Health and Environmental Concerns from Fracking and Unconventional Gas Development. PSE Healthy Energy, Apr 20, 2016


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