The impacts of fracking on the environment: A total environmental study paradigm

Sci Total Environ. 2017 Feb 15;580:953-957. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.12.045. Epub 2016 Dec 13.


Fracking has become a hot topic in the media and public discourse not only because of its economic benefit but also its environmental impacts. Recently, scientists have investigated the environmental impacts of fracking, and most studies focus on its air and ground water pollution. A systematic research structure and an overall evaluation of fracking's impacts on the environment are needed, because fracking does not only influence ground water but most environmental elements including but not limited to air, water, soil, rock, vegetation, wildlife, human, and many other ecosystem components. From the standpoint of the total environment, this communication assesses the overall impacts of fracking on the environment and then designs a total environmental study paradigm that effectively examines the complicated relationship among the total environment. Fracking dramatically changes the anthroposphere, which in turn significantly impacts the atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, and biosphere through the significant input or output of water, air, liquid or solid waste disposals, and the complex chemical components in fracking fluids. The proposed total environment study paradigm of fracking can be applied to other significant human activities that have dramatic impacts on the environment, such as mountain top coal mining or oil sands for environmental studies.

Keywords: Hydraulic fracturing; Interdisciplinary; Systematic study; Total environment study paradigm.