The rush to drill for natural gas: a public health cautionary tale

Am J Public Health. 2011 May;101(5):784-5. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2010.300089. Epub 2011 Mar 18.


Efforts to identify alternative sources of energy have focused on extracting natural gas from vast shale deposits. The Marcellus Shale, located in western New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, is estimated to contain enough natural gas to supply the United States for the next 45 years. New drilling technology-horizontal drilling and high-volume hydraulic fracturing of shale (fracking)-has made gas extraction much more economically feasible. However, this technique poses a threat to the environment and to the public's health. There is evidence that many of the chemicals used in fracking can damage the lungs, liver, kidneys, blood, and brain. We discuss the controversial technique of fracking and raise the issue of how to balance the need for energy with the protection of the public's health.

MeSH terms

  • Environment
  • Fossil Fuels*
  • Humans
  • Mining*
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Public Health*


  • Fossil Fuels