Tuesday 25th October 2016                 Change text size:

Fracking releases hormone-disrupting chemicals, study finds

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New research has shown that water from US fracking sites had levels of chemicals able to influence estrogens and androgens hormones.

The study, published on Endocrinology, analysed 39 water samples from Garfield County in Colorado, an area that has more than 10,000 drilling sites. It found that a number of them contained endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs).

According to the study, “Of the 39 unique water samples, 89%, 41%, 12%, and 46% exhibited estrogenic, anti-estrogenic, androgenic, and anti-androgenic activities, respectively. Our data suggest that natural gas drilling operations may result in elevated EDC activity in surface and ground water.”

The endocrine system regulates hormones in the organism, including those related to metabolism, mood, growth and sleep. A disruption of the system can have various consequences, including cancer, development and sexual disorders and even birth defects.

Susan Nagel, one of the authors from the University of Missouri, said, “More than 700 chemicals are used in the fracking process, and many of them disturb hormone function.

“With fracking on the rise, populations may face greater health risks from increased endocrine-disrupting chemical exposure.”

The process of extracting gas from shale rocks, known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking, has been often criticised for its possible consequences over water contamination.

However, it caused a drop of gas prices in the US and has been praised by the UK government as well, as a ‘transition fuel’ towards a cleaner energy system – as it emits less greenhouse gases than conventional fossil fuels.

The debate in the UK is still going on between those supporting it – including David Cameron, who recently wrote to the European Commission asking it not to oppose fracking developments – and those opposing it on environmental and economic grounds.

Further reading:

Two studies lay out environmental and climate impacts of fracking

Fracking poses ‘serious threat’ of water contamination, says report

Report says fracking poses ‘low’ health risk – but sustainable investors remain wary

Sir David King: fracking could have ‘enormous environmental consequences’

Three facts on fracking

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