A new study in the Journal of Environmental Protection shows that babies born in fracking areas of Pennsylvania are up to 66% more likely to die before they are 28 days old, compared with the Pennsylvania state average.
Hydraulic fracturing - or fracking - is a process of injecting water, sand and chemicals into deep layers of rock at high pressure to release oil and natural gas, also known as "shale gas". At the same time the radioactive elements Radium and Uranium present in the rock are released. Large volumes of water are used in fracking and much of it returns to the surface and may contaminate surface water and groundwater. Pennsylvania was one of the first regions to allow fracking. The new study used official data from the US Centre for Disease Control. It compared an early 4-year period (2003-2006), when 44 fracking wells were drilled, with the following 4 years (2007- 2010) when nearly 3000 were drilled.
The mortality rate increased by 29% across the 10 most heavily fracked counties in Pennsylvania. It increased by 66% in the five heavily fracked counties in the north-east. The rate for the whole of Pennsylvania fell by 2% over the same period. The evidence suggests that contamination of drinking water is driving the effect. It is thought that the difference between the north-eastern and south-western parts of Pennsylvania may be because in the north west more people depend on privately owned wells. Differences in the underlying geology may also play a part.
Report author Professor Chris Busby said “A major component of early infant mortality is congenital malformations like heart, neurological, and kidney defects. These are known to be caused by exposures to Radium and Uranium in drinking water".
Co-author Joe Mangano added, “These results raise serious questions about potential health hazards of fracking, especially since the fetus and infant are most susceptible to environmental pollutants. This is a public health issue which should be investigated wherever fracking is being carried out or proposed.”
Press release from Environmental Research SIA
More reporting in The Ecologist
In June last year the Low Level Radiation Campaign supported British ex-Servicemen who attended Atomic Weapons tests in the 1950s and '60s. We asked our public for financial help and met our target. We spent £22,000 on expenses for the legal team and bringing expert witnesses from UK, Ireland, Germany and Japan. Everyone acted without pay.
Just before Christmas 2016 the Tribunal rejected the appeals. We have lodged a further appeal against the very unfair way the hearings were conducted.
Read on for more reporting and links to the most important court documents.
How we got here (archive)
Under European law any "practice" that exposes people to ionising radiation must be "Justified". "Justification" means, for example, that a company planning to build a nuclear power station has to do a cost/benefit analysis. The benefits of each practice, including economic and social gains, must outweigh the radiation detriment. National governments must accept the Justification analysis before the proposal can go ahead.
European law also provides a way for the Justification to be reviewed if new and important evidence comes to light. Anyone can submit evidence and apply for a review. LLRC has already challenged the plan for a European Pressurised Reactor at Hinkley Point C - see this Ecologist article.
Read how you can make your own review application.
That was the question posed by the Los Angeles Daily News. Some NRC officials noted that, while several recent European reports show raised rates of cancer in children close to nuclear plant, there has been no health study of nuclear power in the US for almost 30 years. They wanted to revisit American data. They have been overruled. In this 12 minute radio interview Dr. Chris Busby explains that the new study was blocked because it would have revealed so much illness and death that the public would have demanded plant closures.
As part of our programme of updating the old website we have reviewed our responses to a gratuitous attack by George Monbiot in 2011.
LLRC's chief scientific advisor is Professor Chris Busby. His curriculum vitae