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Is Shale Gas Drilling an Energy Solution or Public Health Crisis?


Correspondence to:

Margaret Rafferty, New York City College of Technology City University of New York, 300 Jay Street Brooklyn, New York, NY 11201. E-mail:


High-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing, a controversial new mining technique used to drill for shale gas, is being implemented worldwide. Chemicals used in the process are known neurotoxins, carcinogens, and endocrine disruptors. People who live near shale gas drilling sites report symptoms that they attribute to contaminated air and water. When they seek help from clinicians, a diagnosis is often elusive because the chemicals to which the patients have been exposed are a closely guarded trade secret. Many nurses have voiced grave concern about shale gas drilling safety. Full disclosure of the chemicals used in the process is necessary in order for nurses and other health professionals to effectively care for patients. The economic exuberance surrounding natural gas has resulted in insufficient scrutiny into the health implications. Nursing research aimed at determining what effect unconventional drilling has on human health could help fill that gap. Public health nurses using the precautionary principle should advocate for a more concerted transition from fossil fuels to sustainable energy. Any initiation or further expansion of unconventional gas drilling must be preceded by a comprehensive Health Impact Assessment (HIA).