Compendium on risks and harms of fracking

compendium The Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking (the Compendium) is a fully referenced compilation of the significant body of scientific, medical, and journalistic findings demonstrating risks and harms of fracking. It is a living document t, housed on the websites of Concerned Health Professionals of New York and Physicians for Social Responsibility.

It is organized to be accessible to public officials, researchers, journalists, and the public at large.  The Compendium summarizes key studies and other findings relevant to the ongoing public debate about unconventional methods of oil and gas extraction.

The Compendium should be used by readers to grasp the scope of the information about both public health and safety concerns and the economic realities of fracking that frame these concerns. The reader who wants to delve deeper can consult the reviews, studies, and articles referenced.

In addition, the Compendium is complemented by a fully searchable, near-exhaustive citation database of peer-reviewed journal articles pertaining to shale gas and oil extraction, housed at the PSE Healthy Energy scientific literature database.*

For the Compendium, we collected and compiled findings from three sources: articles from peer-reviewed medical or scientific journals; investigative reports by journalists; and reports from or commissioned by government agencies.

  • Peer-reviewed articles were identified through databases such as PubMed and Web of Science, and from within the PSE Health Energy database.
  • We included review articles when such reviews revealed new understanding of the evidence. Our entries briefly describe studies that documented harm or risk of harm associated with fracking, summarizing the principal findings.
  • We also provided, within entries, references to articles appearing in the popular press that described the findings of the corresponding peer-reviewed study.
Pace of production of research studies and results

“Even as we compiled entries for this sixth edition, the authors of the Compendium continued to see evidence of, and appreciate, the rapid expanse of our knowledge base. The Compendium exists within a moving stream of data.

More than half of the peer-reviewed scientific papers on the risks and harms of fracking have been published since January 2016. Indeed, 20 percent (355 studies) of the now more than 1,700 available studies were published in 2018 alone.

As of April 16, 2019, there were 1,778 published peer-reviewed studies that pertain to shale and tight gas development archived in the ROGER database.

This body of evidence clearly reveals both potential and actual harms. Specifically, PSE’s statistical analysis of the scientific literature available from 2009 to 2015 demonstrates that:

  • 69 percent of original research studies on water quality found potential for, or actual evidence of, fracking-associated water contamination,
  • 87 percent of original research studies on air quality found significant air pollutant emissions, and
  • 84 percent of original research studies on human health risks found signs of harm or indication of potential harm.*

A follow-up analysis using the same criteria for inclusion found that 90.3 percent of all original research studies published from 2016-2018 on the health impacts of fracking found a positive association with harm or potential harm.*” (the Compendium, Sixth Edition, June 19, 2019)

Conclusions of the last Compendium (Sixth Edition, June 19, 2019)

“All together, findings to date from scientific, medical, and journalistic investigations combine to demonstrate that fracking poses significant threats to air, water, human health, public safety, community cohesion, long-term economic vitality, biodiversity, seismic stability, and climate stability.

The rapidly expanding body of scientific evidence compiled and referenced in the present volume is massive, troubling, and cries out for decisive action. Across a wide range of parameters, from air and water pollution to radioactivity to social disruption to greenhouse gas emissions, the data continue to reveal a plethora of recurring problems and harms that cannot be sufficiently averted through regulatory frameworks. There is no evidence that fracking can operate without threatening public health directly and without imperiling climate stability upon which public health depends. The only method of mitigating its grave harm to public health and the climate is a complete and comprehensive ban on fracking.”