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Chemicals used for fracking worse for human health than known

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Chemicals released during fracking may be more harmful than known

Researchers have released findings that fracking chemicals may have a worse impact on human health than previously known.

The results that were presented at the joint meeting of the International Society of Endocrinology and the Endocrine Society: ICE/ENDO 2014 in Chicago reveal chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing not only disrupt hormones of reproduction, but they also block the activity of thyroid and glucocorticoid hormone receptors.

Fracking has become a subject of controversy because the chemicals used are known toxins and carcinogens. Over 600 chemicals are used in the process.

There is also widespread concern about drilling for gas because it disrupts the environment and can spew toxins into our waterways and water supplies. Drilling for natural gas is also believed to contribute to air pollution and it devastates landscapes.

Birth defects, cancer and more linked to fracking chemicals

The newest study found fracking chemicals tested have a more negative effect on health than what was already known.

Christopher Kassotis, a PhD student at the University of Missouri, Columbia. said in a press release: "The high levels of hormone disruption by endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that we measured, have been associated with many poor health outcomes, such as infertility, cancer and birth defects."

Kassotis and his team tested 24 chemicals that are injected into the earth under high pressure during fracking, finding that all of those used most often block the previously mentioned hormone receptors in the body.

Spills that occur when chemicals and millions of gallons of water are injected underground can contaminate ground and surface water Kassotis said.

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EDCs that disrupt the hormones estrogen and androgen - a precursor to testosterone - were found in moderate to high amounts in Garfield County, Colorado from documented spills in earlier studies.

24 common chemicals used in fracking disrupt hormones

For the new study Kassotis and his colleagues found 7 chemicals inhibited the thyroid hormone receptor and 10 blocked the glucocorticoid receptor in human cells. Glucocorticoids help the body maintain homeostasis and metabolism necessary for life.

The research team also found 17 chemicals that interfered with the androgen receptor and 10 that hindered the estrogen receptor.

"We don't know what the adverse health consequences might be in humans and animals exposed to these chemicals," Kassotis said, "but infants and children would be most vulnerable because they are smaller, and infants lack the ability to break down these chemicals."

The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) has called for a moratorium on fracking throughout Europe out of public health concerns.

Kassotis added it is unlikely the fracking chemicals would show up in drinking water near sites and it is unlikely that the high concentrations would show up. But he warns it’s the combination of EDCs that can affect human health that are worse than any one alone. Drinking water normally has a mixture of the chemicals that can work together to disrupt hormone signaling.


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Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Joshua Doubek



Makes one think that fracking may be contributing to the rise in cases of thyroid problems, including thyroid cancer.
I think that's fluoride in our water.
Good point!
Deborah, you read my mind.