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Health and environmental public interest groups and experts have major concerns about the effects on public health and the environment of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which is now starting to be used in Europe.

Fracturing Shale for Natural Gas or ‘Fracking’ involves injecting huge amounts of water containing chemicals deep into the ground in order to extract natural gas or oil from shale rock formations.

In October 2011, HEAL organized a seminar to discuss the health and environmental implications of shale fracturing for natural gas in Europe, related to both the exploration and exploitation phases.

Key issues related to health include the potential effects of water and land contamination, air pollution, noise, the release of radioactive substances and toxic heavy metals from underground, and accidents and damage associated with fires and explosions and earthquakes, as well as changes in land use and impacts on nature conservation and biodiversity.

In addition, fracturing for gas and oil represent further investment in fossil fuels, which continues greenhouse gas emissions and their contribution to climate change and its associated effects on health.

HEAL is calling for a moratorium on all exploration and exploitation licensing in all EU countries and a comprehensive review of EU policies which pertain to fracking.

We are working closely with partner organisations in Europe, the US, and elsewhere, including Sandra Steingraber and the Collaborative on Health and Environment. In the US, nearly 40% of all domestic natural gas is obtained by fracking.

More information

European Parliament votes in impact assessment

11 October 2013 - MEPs have voted to ensure that shale gas, shale oil, tight gas and coal bed methane extraction and exploration that involves fracking should be subject to mandatory environmental impact assessments.

Many votes were obtained with a tight majority so every vote counted and the active participation of HEAL and other NGO member organisations in raising awareness were important. The outcome of the vote is a step forward, but still has some important shortcomings, because the scope of the Environmental Impact Assessment is limited to the ‘fracking activity’ itself, and does not cover many of the preparatory activities, which could also incur damage or risks to environment and health. Nevertheless, the result gives some important tools to local communities to fight against a possible development of this industry.

You can find here the press release from Friends of the Earth Europe:

The report voted by MEPs is now being discussed at the European Council level (between member states) before the legislation is final, so national advocacy work is still needed.

About HEAL

The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) is a leading European not-for-profit organisation addressing how the environment affects health in the European Union (EU). We demonstrate how policy changes can help protect health and enhance people’s quality of life. Read more »


HEAL has over 70 member organisations, representing health professionals, not-for-profit health insurers, doctors, nurses, cancer and asthma groups, citizens, women’s groups, youth groups, environmental NGOs, scientists and public health institutes. Members include international and Europe-wide organisations, as well as national and local groups. Read more »

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