To put it as bluntly as the science allows: we have no clue what hydro-fracking—the high-pressure, deep-earth injection of water, chemicals, and other materials to open up rock seams and release oil and gas—may be doing to public health in Canada. None. And no, that is not an exaggeration for journalistic effect.
That was what Canadian researchers working on the Lancet’s Countdown Project on climate change and public health were stunned to discover when they went looking.
“There was not a single study published, ever, on the health impacts of fracking in Canada,” said Courtney Howard, president-elect of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, during public comments on the release of the Countdown report.
The College of Family Physicians of Canada carried out a comprehensive literature review and came up empty, Howard said. “That was about a year ago, and I’m not aware of anything that has been published since.”
Other studies have affirmatively linking fracking and underground disposal of fracking waste to seismic disturbances in Alberta, British Columbia, and Oklahoma, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency concluded after years of review that fracking activity may in some cases damage drinking water, Reuters reports.
Despite the apparent complete absence of any research at all on fracking’s health impacts in Canada, western provincial regulators have permitted its widespread use. And “the National Energy Board predicts an explosion of fracking activity by 2040,” National Observer notes.