Countless health risks associated with fracking and unconventional gas industry
The definition of ‘health’ must be consistent with the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) - therefore 'health' refers not just to getting a disease as a result of exposure to chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing.
Understanding risks to human health
The AIHW glossary defines health as follows: Term relating to whether the body (which includes the mind) is in a good or bad state. With good health the state of the body and mind are such that a person feels and functions well and can continue to do so for as long as possible.
It defines public health as follows: Term variously referring to the level of health in the population, to actions that improve that level or to related study. Activities aimed at benefitting a population tend to emphasise prevention, protection and health promotion as distinct from treatment tailored to individuals with symptoms. Examples include provision of a clean water supply and good sewerage, conduct of anti-smoking education campaigns, and screening for diseases such as cancer of the breast and cervix.
These definitions are consistent with Aboriginal definitions of health, which also emphasize the connection between an individual’s health and their contribution to the wellbeing of the whole community: “Health is not just the physical well-being of the individual, but the social, emotional, and cultural well-being of the whole community. This is a whole-of-life view and it also includes the cyclical concept of life–death–life” (NAHS Working Party 1989:x).
Importantly, Aboriginal definitions of health consider not just present, but also future life and wellbeing. This is extremely relevant, for decisions made today may affect the health, wellbeing and quality of life of future generations. Indeed, Australians generally also care deeply about the health and wellbeing of current and future children. The impacts of environmental damage may not be evident immediately and also may add to risks associated with other environmental changes. We must, therefore, consider possible future outcomes to make sure we protect the health of today’s children into their adulthoods and beyond. This means that uncertainties regarding any long-term impact should not be ignored or discounted as less important as short-term impacts.
The Compendium is a fully referenced compilation of the significant body of scientific, medical, and journalistic findings demonstrating risks and harms of fracking. The document opens with sections on two of the most acute threats—air pollution and water contamination—and ends with medical and scientific calls for more study and transparency. Readers will notice the ongoing upsurge in reported problems and health impacts, making each section top-heavy with recent data. In accordance, the Compendium is organized in reverse chronological order within sections, with the most recent information first.
The Health Report
The other download is a critical review by Professor Melissa Haswell (MSc PhD) that examines the evidence available from peer-reviewed journal publication regarding the broad array of health concerns associated with unconventional gas mining and whether two Western Australian governmental reports used to contribute to policy decisions in unconventional gas, adequately and accurately address these health concerns.