Fracking, Health, and the Environment: More Bad News

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.



Clinical editor, American Journal of Nursing (AJN), and epidemiologist


  1. Ruth McDermott-Levy, PhD, MPH, RN December 6, 2015 at 2:30 pm

    Dear Blog moderator: Can we please add Nina Kaktins, MSN, RN to the list of PA nurses who are teach other nurses about health risks of fracking. She is a co-author of the article and should be included on the list – that was my error. Thank you.

  2. Ruth McDermott-Levy, PhD, MPH, RN December 4, 2015 at 9:14 pm

    I am pleased to read that AJN continues the monitor this important environmental health issue. Fracking to extract natural gas or oil is happening in 22 states in the U.S. The 3rd edition Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks of Harms of Fracking (Unconventional Gas and Oil Extraction) from Concerned Health Professionals of New York is a valuable resource for nurses regarding how this extraction practice is impacting our patients and the communities where people live, work and play.

    Nurses throughout the U.S. are addressing this issue.

    • In California, Barbara Sattler, RN, DrPH, FAAN has been educating nurses about the health impacts and advocating on the state level.

    • In Texas, Lisa Campbell, DNP, RN has been working with communities for stronger regulations to protect community health.

    • In Pennsylvania, Leni Resick, PhD, CRNP, FNP-BC, PN-C, FAAN has been working with fracking communities and conducting research about the impact of fracking on communities. Ruth McDermott-Levy, PhD, MPH, RN has conducted research about the health concerns of fracking communities. Both Leni and Ruth have educated nurses about the health impacts of fracking.

    • Nurses in Maryland and Pennsylvania have worked with other health professionals to establish consortia of health care providers to advocate for policies related to fracking that protect public health.

    The Alliance of Healthy Environments has a Fracking Committee that meets monthly by phone. If you are interested in participating please contact Annie Sartor,

  3. justkieranblog December 2, 2015 at 10:32 am

    It is such a debatable energy resource!

Comments are moderated before approval, but always welcome.

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