Today the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Health, Environmental and Emerging Risks (SCHEER) published its final opinion on the public health impacts and risks resulting from onshore oil and gas exploration and exploitation in the EU. The SCHEER opinion concluded 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. The SCHEER made the following recommendations:
- the development of a centralised and harmonised inventory of all oil and gas exploration and exploitation sites in the EU;
- the conduct of analytical and modelling studies that identify, quantify and characterise exposure mixtures and their levels in the vicinity of these sites;
- the initiation of targeted biomonitoring and exposure assessment studies of populations potentially at risk;
- the implementation of large-scale epidemiological studies with accurate exposure assessment; and
- the performance of quantitative risk assessment studies.
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 was 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. A public consultation on the preliminary version of the opinion was open from 22 March until 6 May 2018.
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