By Betsy Todd, MPH, RN, CIC, AJN clinical editor

U.S. EPA / via Wikimedia Commons

U.S. EPA / via Wikimedia Commons

Last month, Physicians for Social Responsibility and Concerned Health Professionals of New York released the third edition of their Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking. This document summarizes more than 500 peer-reviewed studies on hydraulic fracturing (fracking),  along with many government and investigative journalism reports.

Fracking involves drilling into the earth and injecting a mixture of water, sand, and chemicals into the rock at high pressure to release the gas inside. There is extensive evidence to demonstrate health risks, environmental damage, and contributions to climate change caused by this practice.

The compendium is intended for policy makers, researchers, journalists, and the public. Specific fracking-related problems identified in this body of literature include the following:

  • Public health impacts, including respiratory disease and congenital abnormalities
  • Air pollution
  • Water contamination
  • Soil contamination and its effects on agriculture
  • Radioactive releases
  • Inherent engineering problems
  • Occupational health and safety hazards
  • Impacts from fracking-associated infrastructure, including noise, light, and diesel pollution
  • Earthquakes and seismic activity
  • Climate change (primarily from methane leaks)

In light of these documented hazards, the two groups have called upon President Obama and Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy to declare a moratorium on fracking in order to protect the public and our planet.

In June 2013, AJN published “Fracking, the Environment, and Health.” The authors provide resources for nurses on this subject, and explain why nurses need to be aware of the environmental and public health hazards caused by fracking. The article will be free until January 1.