- Publication date
- 30 November 2018
- Scientific Committee on Health, Environmental and Emerging Risks (SCHEER)
SCHEER WG on oil and gas
SCHEER members: Roberto Bertollini, Teresa Borges, Raquel Duarte-Davidson, Pim de Voogt, Peter Hoet, Marian Scott, Rémy Slama, Marco Vighi
External experts: Laura Torrente-Murciano, Annemarie van Wezel
On request from: European Commission
Approved on: 30 November 2018
The SCHEER was requested to assess public health risks resulting from onshore oil and gas exploration and extraction activities on a commercial scale in the EU, and to identify knowledge gaps.
Onshore oil and gas exploration and exploitation can induce increased human exposure to biocides, scale and corrosion inhibitors, oxygen scavengers, surfactants, and various hydrocarbons such as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), as well as particulate matter and noise in surrounding populations. Another consequence of onshore oil and gas exploration and exploitation relates to seismic activity: the level of evidence linking this phenomenon to onshore oil and gas exploration and extraction is moderate to strong.
Some of these environmental factors are recognised carcinogens or contribute to the risk of other chronic diseases such as cardiovascular or neurological illnesses.
Epidemiological studies have tried to characterise the possible impact of emissions from onshore oil and gas exploration and exploitation on human health; the vast majority of these studies are from outside the EU, generally the USA. They have relied on relatively imprecise exposure estimates, which is likely to lead to attenuation of dose-response functions. These studies indicate that the risk of haematological cancers and of preterm delivery may be higher in populations living around onshore oil and gas exploration and exploitation sites in comparison to populations living further away. The corresponding level of evidence is weak to moderate. A complete quantified risk assessment cannot be undertaken given the existing limited knowledge base but existing risk assessment studies show some coherence with the associations found in epidemiological studies.
The SCHEER is surprised at the very limited scientific assessment and monitoring of both the environment and people’s health near long-established onshore oil and gas exploration and exploitation sites in the EU, given the numerous studies conducted on similar American oil and gas exploration and exploitation activities and the amount of scientific evidence pointing towards possible adverse effects of these activities.
The review undertaken by the SCHEER suggests a number of knowledge gaps that could be addressed through the following actions:
- development of a centralised and harmonised inventory of all oil and gas exploration and exploitation sites in the EU;
- conduct of analytical and modelling studies that identify, quantify and characterise exposure mixtures and their levels in the vicinity of these sites;
- initiation of targeted biomonitoring and exposure assessment studies of populations potentially at risk;
- implementation of large-scale epidemiological studies with accurate exposure assessment and
- conduct of quantitative risk assessment studies.
public health impacts, public health risks, onshore oil and gas exploration and production, SCHEER
Opinion to be cited as:
SCHEER (Scientific Committee on Health, Environmental and Emerging Risks), Opinion on public health impacts and risks resulting from onshore hydrocarbon exploration and production in the EU, 30 November 2018.