This conference will explore the science and methodological approaches behind understanding environmental health impacts associated with increasing development of natural gas extraction from shale deposits.
Natural gas plays a key role in providing our nation with cleaner energy and greater energy independence. Technical, economic, and energy policy developments have spurred increased gas extraction, especially the use of hydraulic fracturing to recover gas over a greater diversity of geographic regions and geologic formations. However, as with any technology that involves the management of potentially toxic substances, there are increasing concerns about the impact of heightened industrial development in gas extraction on drinking water resources, air quality, and public health. The new technologies and novel exposures to unique combinations of chemicals and minerals during hydraulic fracturing pose novel occupational hazards to both those performing drilling and first responders to industrial accidents. In addition to direct health effects from toxic exposures, there is more research to suggest that rapid development and dramatic environmental changes have adverse social and health impacts in stressed communities. The Federal and State government health and regulatory agencies have identified a lack of critical research on these impacts and in basic research identifying exposures, epidemiology of potential disease outcomes, and community health risks. This conference will present the scientific challenges and issues that government and academic investigators are exploring, as well novel methodologies employed to assess the health impacts and reduce the hazards produced by gas extraction, refining, and delivery operations. Objectives of the meeting include identifying research innovation and knowledge gaps to address public health impacts from essential development of this important energy resource.