Is fracking the newest endocrine disruptor? No. Not that the term has any meaning

Related articles

Fracked well at sunsetThe controversy surrounding the use of hydraulic fracturing fracking continues to make headlines. Last week, we highlighted an op-ed written by upstate Republican Congressman Chris Collins calling upon Gov. Andrew Cuomo to end the moratorium on fracking in New York. On the other end of the spectrum, a study published in Reviews on Environmental Health suggests that chemicals released during oil and natural gas production, including fracking, could potentially pose health risks.

The paper, authored by Dr. Sheila Bushkin-Bedient of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany-SUNY and Dr. Susan Nagel, an obstetrics and gynecology researcher at the University of Missouri, uses findings from studies that have looked at the link between exposure to chemicals associated with fracking and reproductive and developmental problems such as reduced semen quality, increased risk of miscarriage, birth defects, and infertility. They claim that among the 750 chemicals used in fracking, 130 have the potential to have such effects.

The paper s bibliography includes 170 studies, yet one only has to look at a few of the studies to understand the flaws in the research these scientists use to back up their claim that fracking is associated with these health effects. For example, one such study involved surveying residents in Pennsylvania living at various distances from natural-gas wells and drilling. Researchers found a higher risk of various self-reported health complaints among those living closer to such activities. Yet, the study was completely reliant on self-reported data as opposed to medical diagnoses, and those who lived closer to fracking activity were more likely to participate in this survey.

Another example is a study conducted by the current paper s author, Dr. Nagel, and her colleagues at the University of Missouri, which found more endocrine-disrupting activity in water samples from fracking sites in Colorado compared to samples collected at sites with no fracking activity. As we ve said before when dealing with claims concerning this pseudo-scientific term, it is often used to invoke unnecessary panic. The term is thrown around carelessly to include anything that may bind to a hormone receptor no matter how weakly.

Although fracking has received a huge amount of news coverage in recent years, the concept of fracking is hardly new. Concerns are primarily based on theoretical adverse health effects from contamination of groundwater and virtually all are baseless. Furthermore, 90 percent of the composition of fracking-fluids is water: yes, H2O. Of the remainder, 9 percent is proppant (typically sand or ceramic material meant to keep a hydraulic fracture open) and about one percent consists of chemical additives, the majority of which can be found in commonly used household and consumer products.

We suggest you read our peer-reviewed work on fracking, which includes a scientific paper, a consumerized version of the paper and a What s the Story brochure. If you would like to receive these, please e-mail us at and we will send you our publications. Our video about the subject can be found here.