Author: Dr. Tim Thornton

Congenital heart defects and intensity of oil and gas well site activities in early pregnancy

A new paper from a seasoned researcher on the impacts of fracking on health finds an increase in congenital heart defects associated with exposure to oil and wells in the first two months of pregnancy.


Lisa McKenzie wrote her first paper in 2014 and found the association but returned to the examination of the statistics and renewed scrutiny of the distance from the wells and the activity of the wells. She also looked at exposure during the first 2 months of the pregnancy.

What she found was that babies who had been most exposed to the oil and gas wells in their first 2 months of life in the womb had between a 40% and 70% increased chance of having a heart abnormality when compared to those in the study with the least exposure.

The heart develops early in pregnancy so the early exposure can cause defects during this crucial time.

Most people would not be comfortable with an industrial process capable of doing such harm to an unborn baby. It will be the same here in the UK. We know that the, much praised, offshore rigs and gas fields leak huge amounts of gas to the air and that the old unused wells leak at the level of the sea bed. We have seen how recent drilling and test fracking onshore have resulted in leaks and venting of significant amounts of ‘natural’ gas. This contains not only the climate damaging methane but also a variety of other gases that cause ill-health and can contain radioactive elements. We cannot say that regulation and engineering will protect us as we have seen that it is a real and present problem. One easy way to reduce the risk would be to site the well a long distance from homes and schools. Both UK Industry and Government resist this despite the ability to drill up to five miles sideways to access the sweet-spots and argue instead for no pre-set minimum distance from pregnant women and children.

As the Conservative Environment Network manifesto rightly says – ‘fracking is woefully unpopular’. It might have added that it is remarkable harmful to human health also.

Link to the paper

CEN manifesto see p22

For a wide ranging look at health impacts from fracking
and note also the letter from Dr Jerome Paulson with link on the opening page.

Conservative Environment Network calls for a ban on fracking

The Conservative Environment Network calls for a ban on fracking and is explicit on its reasons.


The Conservative Environment Network (CEN) is an independent forum, MP
caucus, and membership organisation for conservatives who support conservation
and decarbonisation. As such, we:
1. create a positive agenda for the environment across the conservative
movement, finding unity and common purpose, and directing it
towards real change;
2. are a platform for different parts of the conservative movement to
express and debate views on how to achieve better environmental
3. act as network, mobiliser, and convener and do not undertake policy
research ourselves;
4. rely on peer-reviewed research to inform any positions we take or topics
we discuss; and
5. are independent and transparent about our funding and sponsorship.
This paper serves to provide a space for parts of the conservative movement to express
and debate views on how to achieve better environmental outcomes, and was kindly supported by the JMG Foundation.


I. We recognise the gravity of the global environmental crisis, and our duty to
preserve and restore our planet for future generations.
II. We agree that by working with nature, rather than against it, we can grow
our economy faster and more sustainably – and that the environment provides
essential services that underpin economic growth.
III. We believe that the best route to net zero emissions is through a prosperous
market economy that innovates quickly.
IV. We know that transformational change starts with the responsibility of the
V. We believe that the UK has a duty to display global leadership on the
environmental crisis.
Peter Aldous MP
Rt Hon Richard Benyon MP
Ben Bradley MP
Steve Brine MP
Maria Caulfield MP
Alex Chalk MP
Simon Clarke MP
Robert Courts MP
Tracey Crouch MP
Philip Dunne MP
Michael Fabricant MP
Vicky Ford MP
Rt Hon Sir Roger Gale MP
Zac Goldsmith MP
Luke Graham MP
Richard Graham MP
James Gray MP
Rt Hon Greg Hands MP
Mark Harper MP
Rt Hon Sir Oliver Heald QC MP
James Heappey MP
Kevin Hollinrake MP
Nigel Huddleston MP
Sir Bernard Jenkin MP
Rt Hon Sir Oliver Letwin MP
Tim Loughton MP
Rachel Maclean MP
Scott Mann MP
Sarah Newton MP
Neil O’Brien MP
Dr Matthew Offord MP
Rt Hon Sir Mike Penning MP
Victoria Prentis MP
Antoinette Sandbach MP
Andew Selous MP
Henry Smith MP
Sir Nicholas Soames MP
Rt Hon Dame Caroline Spelman MP
Derek Thomas MP
David Warburton MP
Helen Whately MP


p 22

Ban on fracking

A ban on fracking is overwhelmingly sensible for four main reasons:

One, gas from fracking offers little in the way of economic opportunity, and much more in the way of stranded assets. For a host of reasons including population densities, political dynamics and water distributions, it is extremely unlikely that the UK will be able to exploit our shale reserves in the way the US has.

Two, even if UK shale gas resources could be exploited at scale successfully we would not benefit from the significantly lower gas prices. The amount we pay for gas is largely determined by two things: the international liquefied natural gas spot market price and the European gas price. Consuming UK gas at the cost of production would require significant subsidies.

Three, fracked gas would only help to reduce our emissions if it replaced coal, which has already been almost entirely removed from the national grid. And, in addition, it could lead to unpredictable, ‘fugitive emissions’ that leak out of pressurised equipment.

Four, we know that security for the energy transition can be found elsewhere from cheap renewables, hydrogen, and nuclear, for example. In short, we know that in roughly ten years’ time we should be turning away from gas.

Finally, as a cherry on top, fracking is woefully unpopular. Over twice as many Conservative voters believe that we should generate power from onshore wind than from fracked gas.

If we are serious about our transition to a more secure world we now need to step away from the oil and gas economy on which we have relied on in the past.

Action imminent

The time is here. We are preparing to send our letter to key ministers at Westminster.
If you have colleges that wish to support this letter please remind them now!

Concerned Health Professionals of New York is the organisation that inspired and supported our efforts to alert health professionals to the possible harms of fracking in the UK. They have produced an update of their collection of evidence based articles, papers and opinions which reflects the 15 years of experience of fracking in USA and to a lesser extent Canada, Australia and UK. The whole Compendium is an interesting read, raising as it does, concerns across a number of areas. Dense scientific papers have been condensed to a readable paragraph and I expect that many will wish to use the links to read the originals and decide on the accuracy of the simplicity. This is the go-to reference for fracking and health, the environment and communities. Dip in and decide for yourself. The extracts here are from the overview of the sections.

The document can be downloaded from this link:

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