Unconventional oil and gas extraction and animal health
The extraction of hydrocarbons from shale formations using horizontal drilling with high volume hydraulic fracturing (unconventional shale gas and tight oil extraction), while derived from methods that have been used for decades, is a relatively new innovation that was introduced first in the United States and has more recently spread worldwide. Although this has led to the availability of new sources of fossil fuels for domestic consumption and export, important issues have been raised concerning the safety of the process relative to public health, animal health, and our food supply. Because of the multiple toxicants used and generated, and because of the complexity of the drilling, hydraulic fracturing, and completion processes including associated infrastructure such as pipelines, compressor stations and processing plants, impacts on the health of humans and animals are difficult to assess definitively. We discuss here findings concerning the safety of unconventional oil and gas extraction from the perspectives of public health, veterinary medicine, and food safety.