** Cross functional team examined more than 150 peer-reviewed studies fracking chemicals
** Concluded exposure to chemical products released during hydraulic fracturing operations pose a health risk to both men and women, as well as children
** Strong evidence of decreased semen quality in men, higher miscarriages in women and increased risk of birth defects in children
Unconventional oil and gas (UOG) extraction methods use a combination of drilling and fracking to extract natural gas that is contained within fissures and pockets in underground rock. There has been much debate regarding the potential for chemicals used within these practices to pollute the surrounding air as well as precious drinking water sources, and the effect this has on residents that live within a mile of these operations.
Now, a research team consisting of researchers from the University of Missouri, the Institute for Health and the Environment, and the Center for Environmental Health, have conducted an intensive review of research related to hydro-fracking byproducts, and the impact they have on human reproduction and development. They concluded that exposure to chemical products released during hydraulic fracturing operations pose a health risk to both men and women, as well as children, and have recommended that further studies should be conducted to determine the level of risk.
"We examined more than 150 peer-reviewed studies reporting on the effects of chemicals used in UOG operations and found evidence to suggest there is cause for concern for human health," said co-author, Susan Nagel, an associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and women's health in the School of Medicine at the University of Missouri. "Further, we found that previous studies suggest that adult and early life exposure to chemicals associated with UOG operations can result in adverse reproductive health and developmental defects in humans."
The review of studies published in peer-reviewed journals and scientific publications, thoroughly examined previous studies that assessed at the health effects of UOG chemicals on humans, looking for any patterns and/or links. The findings were recently published online in the scientific journal Reviews on Environmental Health. According to the researchers, traces of UOG chemicals have been found in water and air surrounding UOG sites, and are linked to harmful effects on both humans and animals. Exposure to water and air polluted by chemicals released during UOG operations is thought to be associated with poor semen quality, increased risk of infertility and miscarriage, as well as stunted fetal development and birth defects.
"There are far fewer human studies than animal studies; however, taken together, the studies did show that humans can be harmed by these chemicals released from fracking," said Nagel. "There is strong evidence of decreased semen quality in men, higher miscarriages in women and increased risk of birth defects in children. There is a striking need for continued research on UOG processes and chemicals and the health outcomes in people."
Ellen Webb, Amanda Cheng, Christopher D Kassotis, Victoria Balise, Susan C. Nagel. Developmental and reproductive effects of chemicals associated with unconventional oil and natural gas operations. Reviews on Environmental Health. Volume 29, Issue 4, Pages 307–318, ISSN (Online) 2191-0308, ISSN (Print) 0048-7554, DOI: 10.1515/reveh-2014-0057, December 2014.