Fracking chemicals disrupt hormone function

A controversial oil and natural gas drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, uses many chemicals that can disrupt the body's hormones, according to new research accepted for publication in The Endocrine Society's journal Endocrinology.

Endocrine-disrupting chemicals, or EDCs, are substances that can interfere with the normal functioning of the . EDCs can be found in manufactured products as well as certain foods, air, water and soil. Research has linked EDC exposure to infertility, cancer and birth defects.

"More than 700 chemicals are used in the fracking process, and many of them disturb hormone function," said one of the study's authors, Susan C. Nagel, PhD, of the University of Missouri School of Medicine. "With fracking on the rise, populations may face greater health risks from increased endocrine-disrupting chemical exposure."

The study examined 12 suspected or known endocrine-disrupting chemicals used in natural gas operations and measured their ability to mimic or block the effect of the body's male and female reproductive hormones. To gauge endocrine-disrupting activity from natural gas operations, researchers took surface and ground from sites with drilling spills or accidents in a drilling-dense area of Garfield County, CO – an area with more than 10,000 active natural gas wells – and from drilling-sparse control sites without spills in Garfield County as well as Boone County, MO.

The water samples from drilling sites had higher levels of EDC activity that could interfere with the body's response to androgens, a class of hormones that includes testosterone, as well as the reproductive hormone estrogen. Drilling site water samples had moderate to high levels of EDC activity, and samples from the Colorado River – the drainage basin for the sites – had moderate levels. In comparison, little activity was measured in the water samples from the sites with little drilling.

"Fracking is exempt from federal regulations to protect water quality, but spills associated with drilling can contaminate surface, ground and drinking water," Nagel said. "We found more endocrine-disrupting activity in the water close to drilling locations that had experienced spills than at control sites. This could raise the risk of reproductive, metabolic, neurological and other diseases, especially in children who are exposed to EDCs."

More information: The study, "Estrogen and Androgen Receptor Activities of Hydraulic Fracturing Chemicals and Surface and Ground Water in a Drilling-Dense Region," was published online, ahead of print.

Related Stories

Study finds fracking chemicals didn't spread

date Jul 19, 2013

(AP)—A landmark federal study on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, shows no evidence that chemicals from the natural gas drilling process moved up to contaminate drinking water at a western Pennsylvania drilling site, ...

Recommended for you

Key to better sex ed: Focus on gender & power

date 20 hours ago

A new analysis by Population Council researcher Nicole Haberland provides powerful evidence that sexuality and HIV education programs addressing gender and power in intimate relationships are far more likely ...

Journal tackles aging policy issues raised by White House

date 20 hours ago

In anticipation of the forthcoming 2015 White House Conference on Aging (WHCoA), The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) has produced a special issue of The Gerontologist that outlines a vision for older adults' econom ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.