Environmental health impacts of unconventional natural gas development: A review of the current strength of evidence

Werner, Angela K., Vink, Sue, Watt, Kerrianne and Jagals, Paul (2015) Environmental health impacts of unconventional natural gas development: A review of the current strength of evidence. Science of The Total Environment, 505 1127-1141. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2014.10.084


Author Werner, Angela K.
Vink, Sue
Watt, Kerrianne
Jagals, Paul
Title Environmental health impacts of unconventional natural gas development: A review of the current strength of evidence
Journal name Science of The Total Environment   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0048-9697
1879-1026
Publication date 2015
Year available 2015
Sub-type Critical review of research, literature review, critical commentary
DOI 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2014.10.084
Open Access Status DOI
Volume 505
Start page 1127
End page 1141
Total pages 15
Place of publication Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Publisher Elsevier BV
Collection year 2016
Language eng
Formatted abstract
Rapid global expansion of unconventional natural gas development (UNGD) raises environmental health concerns. Many studies present information on these concerns, yet the strength of epidemiological evidence remains tenuous. This paper is a review of the strength of evidence in scientific reporting of environmental hazards from UNGD activities associated with adverse human health outcomes. Studies were drawn from peer-reviewed and grey literature following a systematic search. Five databases were searched for studies published from January 1995 through March 2014 using key search terms relevant to environmental health. Studies were screened, ranked and then reviewed according to the strength of the evidence presented on adverse environmental health outcomes associated with UNGD. The initial searches yielded > 1000 studies, but this was reduced to 109 relevant studies after the ranking process. Only seven studies were considered highly relevant based on strength of evidence. Articles spanned several relevant topics, but most focussed on impacts on typical environmental media, such as water and air, with much of the health impacts inferred rather than evidenced. Additionally, the majority of studies focussed on short-term, rather than long-term, health impacts, which is expected considering the timeframe of UNGD; therefore, very few studies examined health outcomes with longer latencies such as cancer or developmental outcomes. Current scientific evidence for UNGD that demonstrates associations between adverse health outcomes directly with environmental health hazards resulting from UNGD activities generally lacks methodological rigour. Importantly, however, there is also no evidence to rule out such health impacts. While the current evidence in the scientific research reporting leaves questions unanswered about the actual environmental health impacts, public health concerns remain intense. This is a clear gap in the scientific knowledge that requires urgent attention.
Keyword Coal Seam Gas
Environmental health impact
Shale gas
Strength of evidence
Tight gas
Unconventional natural gas
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Critical review of research, literature review, critical commentary
Collections: Official 2016 Collection
School of Public Health Publications
Sustainable Minerals Institute Publications
 
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Created: Wed, 19 Nov 2014, 08:40:27 EST by Paul Jagals on behalf of School of Public Health