Pollutants from fracking could pose health risk to children, warn researchers

From The Guardian: Pollutants released during fracking processes could pose a health risk to infants and children, according to researchers studying chemicals involved in shale gas operations.

In the UK, fracking is backed by the Tory Government and the first drilling in six years is expected to begin this week in the North Yorkshire village of Kirby Misperton, despite staunch opposition from protesters.

However, other countries have banned the practice, including France, Ireland, and Germany, citing environmental concerns, with the Scottish parliament today backing the Scottish government’s ban.

Now scientists analysing studies looking into the presence of chemicals at fracking sites in the US say the presence of pollutants ranging from airborne particulates to heavy metals could affect the neurodevelopment of babies and children in the area.

The team focused on five major groups of pollutants including heavy metals, chemicals that disrupt hormone systems and particulates. These substances have been linked to effects ranging from memory, learning and IQ deficits to disorders including anxiety and schizophrenia, as well as behavioural problems including hyperactivity and aggression.

“This study is really the first comprehensive look at whether there is a risk for this type of harm from fracking,” said Ellen Webb, co-author of the research from the Center for Environmental Health, a US-based non-profit organisation.

The research, published in the journal Reviews on Environmental Health, details evidence of the neurological and neurodevelopmental effects and long-term health impacts of chemicals that other studies have linked to unconventional oil and gas operations – techniques that include fracking.

The research highlights a number of ways by which such pollutants are released by fracking and other such operations, including through leaks, equipment use and trucks for transportation.

It also reports that levels of various pollutants in air and water samples – including particulate matter, manganese and benzene – have been found by some studies to exceed US guidelines at certain fracking sites.

“Given the profound sensitivity of the developing brain and the central nervous system, it is very reasonable to conclude that young children who experience frequent exposure to these pollutants are at particularly high risk for chronic neurological problems and disease,” said Webb.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]