PEOPLE living within ten miles of fracking sites could be at risk of heart defects, according to latest papers.

The publication, written by Michael Hill in The Lancet medical journal, highlights concerns over the controversial procedure to extract shale gas and oil from the ground.

Mr Hill, a former oil and gas man, has called for a complete halt on all fracking until more research has been conducted looking into claims that people living near sites have an increased risk of congenital heart defects and other health issues.

Four locations in Sussex could become fracking sites in the future – Lower Stumble Wood near Balcombe, Wood Barn Farm near Billinghurst, Nine Acre Copse in Fernhurst and the land south of Boxal Bridge in Wisborough Green.

Mr Hill said: “Recent studies from the USA have suggested an increased risk of adverse health events such as congenital heart defects in individuals living close to natural gas development within a radius of ten miles.

“These preliminary findings need to be replicated and explored further in large prospective studies.

“It may be irresponsible to consider any further fracking in the UK, exploratory or otherwise, until these prospective studies have been completed and the health impacts of fracking have been determined.

“The need for specific regulations coupled with strict enforcement through an independent, competent body is clear.

“But no such body exists, and no such efficient regulations are forthcoming.

“The reality of shale gas regulation in the UK is far from the best practice alluded to and far from that needed to protect the public and environment in a densely populated country such as the UK.”

Both Celtique Energie and Cuadrilla, the energy firms who have submitted applications to drill at the four sites, declined to comment when contacted by The Argus.

Mass anti-fracking protests took over the village of Balcombe last summer leading to 126 arrests, including that of Green MP Caroline Lucas.

A Department of Energy and Climate Change spokeswoman said: “The UK has a robust regulatory system for all onshore drilling and permission to frack for shale will only be granted if the companies’ operations are safe.

“The Royal Society in their report made no recommendations for new legislation.

“However, they did recommend some improvements to existing requirements and we have accepted all their recommendations and we are implementing them.”

It’s your voice What do you think? Email, visit or write to us with your thoughts.