A major study (pdf) released Sunday finds that chemicals from fracking sites have the potential to cause significant pollution while posing risks to human health and wildlife.
In turn, the CHEM Trust—a British charity that investigates the harm chemicals cause ecosystems—is calling for a moratorium on fracking across Europe until key recommendations are put in place.
"Widespread fracking will threaten many of our valuable wildlife sites, as this technology has a high potential to pollute sensitive aquatic ecosystems; it can also harm human health," said CHEM Trust executive director Dr. Michael Warhurst, who added: "We know from experience in the USA that fracking wells can leak and accidents can happen, and this has led to significant pollution and damage to wildlife."
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Specifically, the study cites everything from hormone disruption to skin conditions to cancers to respiratory problems as human health issues potentially caused or exacerbated by fracking.
The report calls for full disclosure of all chemicals used in fracking, "with no provision for commercial confidentiality;" stronger EU regulation of the fossil fuel extraction process; regulations that protect people and ecosystems even when fracking wells are no longer in use; and effective monitoring and enforcement across the continent.
Speaking to the final recommendation, the CHEM Trust notes how austerity negatively impacts environmental regulation: "This means that regulators must have the resources to carry out these functions; this is a particular concern in the UK where the Environment Agency (EA) is experiencing substantial budget cuts."
The report was released just days before officials in Lancashire, in north west England, vote on whether to permit the fossil fuel company Cuadrilla to frack two sites, which the CHEM Trust points out could potentially affect wildlife in and around Morecambe Bay, a wetland of international importance. CHEM Trust is sending its report to the key councilors in Lancashire prior to this vote.
As the CHEM Trust's Warhurt said: "We don’t want to look back in the future to realize that we have damaged our precious countryside in a headlong rush to extract fossil fuels."