A few months ago I didn't discuss a report by the charity Medact on the public health implications of shale gas - it simply wasn't of sufficient quality to be worth bothering with (although a detailed rebuttal from UKOOG is available here).
This report formed a major part of opposition group objections to Cuadrilla's proposed operations in Lancashire. The views of the Lancashire County Council Development Control Committee officers on the Medact report make for interesting reading (p311):
"The Medact report has not produced new epidemiological research but has reviewed published literature and has requested short papers from relevant experts in particular subject areas. It has also interviewed academics and experts."
"Unfortunately, one of the contributors (contributing to three of the report's six chapters – chapters 2, 4 and 5) has led a high profile campaign in the Fylde related to shale gas. Another contributor to the report (chapter 3) has previously expressed firm views on shale gas and has objected to this application. This has led to questions from some quarters about the report's objectivity."
"In light of these uncertainties it is not clear how much weight the County Council should attach to the report."In other words, it's bunkum, and it's been given the treatment it deserves. More generally, on public health in general the Development Control Committee found that:
"While much research exists, and is growing in volume each year, it is difficult to gain an objective view of the veracity of the research. Anti-fracking campaigners frequently point to studies that indicate increased health risks (e.g. elevated risks of cancer or birth defects) as a result of shale gas activity in North America. Conversely, pro-fracking campaigners point to numerous methodological flaws in the research. It is also difficult to translate the findings of research from North America into the UK environment. Operating and regulatory practices are very different."
"PHE highlight significant methodological flaws in the research that has been cited to the County Council."
"Moreover, one study frequently cited by objectors (McKenzie, 2014) has been publically criticised by the Chief Medical Officer and Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in the USA as follows: "we disagree with many of the specific associations with the occurrence of birth defects noted within the study. Therefore, a reader of the study could easily be misled to become overly concerned.”"
"PHE state that direct application of the North American research to the UK situation is impossible because of the wide differences between the two countries."
And they conclude that (my emphases):
"Nevertheless, from the modelling, audit checks and sensitivity analysis conducted by the Environment Agency it is expected there will be no exceedance of standards that protect public health. Public Health England is satisfied the currently available evidence indicates that the potential risks to public health from exposure to the emissions associated with such extraction are low if the operations are properly run and regulated."