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Med J Aust. 2014 Mar 3;200(4):210-3.

Harms unknown: health uncertainties cast doubt on the role of unconventional gas in Australia's energy future.

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Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC, Australia.


There is a push to increase production of unconventional gas in Australia, which would intensify the use of the controversial technique of hydraulic fracturing. The uncertainties surrounding the health implications of unconventional gas, when considered together with doubts surrounding its greenhouse gas profile and cost, weigh heavily against proceeding with proposed future developments. The health and environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing have been the source of widespread public concern. A review of available literature shows a considerable degree of uncertainty, but an emerging consensus about the main risks. Gas is often claimed to be a less climate-damaging alternative to coal; however, this is called into question by the fugitive emissions produced by unconventional gas extraction and the consequences of its export. While the health effects associated with fracturing chemicals have attracted considerable public attention, risks posed by wastewater, community disruption and the interaction between exposures are of also of concern. The health burdens of unconventional gas are likely to fall disproportionately on rural communities, the young and the elderly. While the health and environmental risks and benefits must be compared with other energy choices, coal provides a poor benchmark.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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