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Partner Post: Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals at Fracking Sites

Dangerous Chemicals Found in Water Around Fracking Sites

Written by James P. Nevin james.jpg

Chemicals linked to infertility, birth defects and cancer have been found in water samples collected at Colorado sites where hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is being used to extract natural gas. Fracking has been in the news recently as a controversial yet effective method for extracting gas. It involves injecting millions of gallons of chemical-­laced water deep underground to crack shale formations and unlock oil and gas pockets.

The controversial process is exempt from some regulations that are part of the Safe Drinking Water Act through semantics and loopholes. They are also protected like other energy companies, in that they do not have to disclose the chemicals they use if they consider that information a trade secret.

The study, published in the journal Endocrinology, also found elevated levels of the hormone­disrupting chemicals in the Colorado River, where wastewater released during accidental spills at nearby wells could wind up. Research into the possible effects of fracking on public health is in its early phases. Scientists said the study was a first step that warranted follow­up work. "The human endocrine system and that of wildlife is guided by very small fluctuations of hormones," said Dr. Meg Schwarzman, associate director of the Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry at UC Berkeley. "Even low levels of anti­estrogenic or anti­androgenic activity could potentially alter development in ways that are meaningful."

Exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC's) is particularly risky for fetuses, babies, and young children, according to recent studies. Last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a report raising the alarm on EDCs, saying that endocrine­related illnesses were on the rise worldwide. Mark Salley, spokesman for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said his agency had not yet had time to review the most recent study.


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