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Health Experts Seek Pause In Shale Drilling

by Glenn Hess
January 16, 2012 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 90, Issue 3

Public health advocates are calling for a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing while the potential health and environmental effects of the natural gas drilling process are studied. The gas industry should establish a foundation to finance studies on the technology, which is commonly known as fracking, Jerome A. Paulson said at a forum in Arlington, Va., last week. Paulson is an associate professor of pediatrics at George Washington University’s School of Medicine & Health Sciences. “There are a lot of questions related to the human health and ecological impacts of this process of unconventional gas extraction that need to be answered,” Paulson said. Adam Law, an endocrinologist at Weill Cornell Medical College, added, “Industry has not done nearly enough to finance the needed research effort.” Fracking involves injecting large amounts of water, sand, and chemical additives at high pressure deep underground into shale formations to free trapped natural gas. Critics say the process can contaminate groundwater and surface water and also contributes to air pollution. But the industry has used hydraulic fracturing for 65 years in 30 states with a “demonstrable history of safe operations,” according to Energy In Depth, an advocacy group financed by oil and gas interests.


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