A province-wide study on the health impacts of hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas is needed if the Nova Scotia government approves the process, a new report has recommended.
The report, prepared by Frank Atherton, the province's deputy chief medical officer, says it will take time, effort and investment to put measures in place to protect the public's health.
"As others have noted, the (oil and gas) resources have been in place for millennia and are not going to disappear any time soon," Atherton says in the report. "In the interests of public health, Nova Scotia should take the time and make the necessary investments to ensure that proper regulation, management, mitigation and monitoring measures are established."
Atherton’s 18-page report says more study is needed to determine the longer-term risks of respiratory problems and exposures to chemicals used in fracking.
Atherton also says companies should be required to publicly list the chemicals they use.
He says hydraulic fracturing would brings jobs and income to the province and helps displace the use of coal.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves blasting a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into a well bore to fracture the surrounding rock and release the trapped hydrocarbons, usually natural gas, coalbed methane or crude oil.
The process has been used in one form or another since the late 1940s, but environmentalists say they are more concerned about a relatively new process known has high-volume fracking in shale deposits, which was first used in Canada in 2005.
The fracking boom has increased natural gas supplies and supporters claim it can transform North American producers of resins such as polyethylene, which are favored by lighter natural gas-based feedstocks, into some of the most cost-competitive producers in the world.