In an analysis of over 1,000 chemicals in fluids used in and created by fracking, researchers from the Yale School of Public Health have found that many of the substances have been linked to reproductive and developmental health problems, and due to insufficient information the majority of them had undetermined toxicity. In their paper, they said that further exposure and epidemiological studies are essential to evaluating potential threats to human health from chemicals found in fracking fluids and wastewater created by fracking.
The research team evaluated available data on 1,021 chemicals used in fracking, the process that recovers oil and natural gas from deep within the ground through a mixture of hydraulic-fracturing fluids that can contain hundreds of chemicals. This process creates significant amounts of wastewater and fractures the bedrock, posing a potential threat to both surface water and underground aquifers that supply drinking water. Although they didn’t have any definitive information on the toxicity of the majority of the chemicals, the team members analyzed 240 substances and have concluded that 157 of them were associated with either developmental or reproductive toxicity. Out of these 157, the scientists said that 67 of them were of particular concern due to an existing federal health-based standard or guideline.
Some previous studies have observed associations between proximity to hydraulic fracturing sites and reproductive and developmental problems, although they never investigated specific chemicals. This latest evaluation, note the researchers, could inform the design of future studies by highlighting which chemicals could have the highest chance of health impact. Fracking has increased dramatically in recent years, and the practice is expected to grow into the future. It’s now commonly used in the US, where it’s significantly boosted domestic natural gas production and driven down prices. However, it may also come with significant public health implications, as it could contaminate drinking supplies with toxic chemicals.
The researchers have determined that wastewater produced by fracking could be even more toxic than fracking fluids themselves, which led the researchers to conclude that more focus is necessary to study not just what goes into the well, but what chemicals and by-products are generated during fracking. If you’d like to learn more, you can click here!