What can be done to address health concerns? What have others done?


From the outset, local officials could consider conducting—or encouraging their state or federal counterparts to conduct—a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) on potential shale development in their area, usually performed as part of an environmental or social impact assessment. The National Research Council of the National Academies of Sciences defines HIA as follows:

“HIA is a systematic process that uses an array of data sources and analytic methods and considers input from stakeholders to determine the potential effects of a proposed policy, plan, program, or project on the health of a population and the distribution of those effects within the population. HIA provides recommendations on monitoring and managing those effects.” 1

HIAs often contain components of environmental health as well as socioeconomic risk assessment. They encompass a wide range of possible health effects that extend beyond toxicological effects, including 2:

  • air quality
  • water quality
  • noise
  • agricultural uses
  • demographic changes
  • socioeconomic changes
  • traffic changes
  • employment and workforce impacts

An HIA is intended to assess both the risks and benefits of the proposed project in terms of overall community health. In doing so, it helps identify at-risk populations and provides recommendations for how to reduce possible negative impacts. 


  1. National Research Council, “Improving Health in the United States: The Role of Health Impact Assessment” (Washington, DC:  2011): 5.
  2. Note that these impacts largely arise beginning in Stage 3 and are addressed there.