Scientific Committees

Final Opinion on onshore oil and gas

Final Opinion on the public health impacts and risks
resulting from onshore oil and gas exploration and exploitation in the EU

This Opinion focuses on the assessment of potential risks to human health associated with oil & gas production and exploitation activities in Europe.

 Final opinion

A public consultation on the preliminary version of the Opinion was open on the website of the Scientific Committees from 22 March to 6 May 2018. Information about the public consultation was broadly communicated to national authorities, international organisations and other stakeholders.

Each comment and reference submitted during this time has been carefully considered by the SCHEER. Where appropriate, the text of the relevant sections of the Opinion was edited or explanations were added as a result of pertinent comments. The literature has been updated with relevant publications.

 Results of the public consultation

Content of the Opinion

Although more than 1,300 different chemicals – some of which are known carcinogens - may be released in the environment as a result of oil and gas operations, to date there has been very limited scientific assessment of the possible health effects in the EU. For this reason, the SCHEER has been asked 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.

In its Opinion, the SCHEER concludes that the existing epidemiological studies provide weak to moderate evidence that onshore oil and gas exploration and exploitation entails health risks for the general population. They also indicate that the risk of some cancers and of adverse birth outcomes may be increased in populations living around onshore oil and gas exploration and exploitation sites.

In order to address the identified knowledge gaps, the SCHEER recommends establishing or conducting the following:

  • A centralised and harmonised well-based inventory of all oil and gas exploration and exploitation sites in the EU;
  • Analytical and modelling studies that identify, quantify and characterise exposure mixtures and their levels in the vicinity of these sites;
  • Targeted biomonitoring and exposure assessments studies of populations potentially at risk;
  • Large-scale epidemiological studies with accurate exposure assessment, and
  • Quantitative risk assessment studies.

See also the easy-to-read scientific fact-sheet