Testosterone, going going … gone? Phthalates (endocrine and metabolic disruptors), used in oil and gas wells, are some of the most hazardous chemical additives in plastics for health. People can be exposed via ingestion, inhalation, skin.

Human health impacts of exposure to phthalate plasticizers: An overview of reviews by J. Eales, A. Bethel, T. Galloway, P. Hopkinson, K. Morrissey, R.E. Short, and R. Garside, Volume 158, January 2022, 106903 Environment International



In this review of reviews, we overview the current global body of available evidence from structured reviews of epidemiological studies that explore human health outcomes associated with exposure to phthalates (chemical plasticisers commonly found in plastics). We found robust evidence for an association with lower semen quality, neurodevelopment and risk of childhood asthma, and moderate to robust evidence for impact on anogenital distance in boys. We identified moderate evidence for an association between phthalates/metabolites and low birthweight, endometriosis, decreased testosterone, ADHD, Type 2 diabetes and breast/uterine cancer. There was some evidence for other outcomes including anofourchette distance, fetal sex hormones, pre-term birth, lower antral follicle count, reduced oestrodiol, autism, obesity, thyroid function and hearing disorders. We found no reviews of epidemiological human studies on the impact of phthalates from recycled plastics on human health. We recommend that future research should use urine samples as exposure measures, consider confounders in analyses and measure impacts on female reproductive systems. Our findings align with emerging research indicating that health risks can occur at exposure levels below the “safe dose” levels set out by regulators, and are of particular concern given potential additive or synergistic “cocktail effects” of chemicals. This raises important policy and regulatory issues for identifying and controlling plastics and health related impacts and highlights a need for more research into substances of concern entering plastics waste streams via recycling.

Phthalates have been identified by a number of studies and reviews as some of the most hazardous chemical additives in plastics for health, in terms of likelihood of impact by recycling processes (Geueke et al., 2018), frequency of use in primary plastic products (Groh et al., 2019), and human health hazard score (Hahladakis et al., 2018). This group of chemicals have received significant media attention due to their identification as endocrine and metabolic disruptors and the extent of their use within plastics. These issues also being brought to the fore by global scientific consortia. The Endocrine Society and the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN), recently summarised the widespread health impacts of various endocrine disrupting chemicals in plastics including phthalates, and acknowledged the growing concern around such chemicals in the circular economy (Flaws et al., 2020). People can be exposed to phthalates via ingestion, inhalation and dermal contact (Lyche, 2011).

Refer also to:

2010: Natural Gas Operations from a Public Health Perspective

For many years, drillers have insisted that they do not use toxic chemicals to drill for gas, only guar gum, mud, and sand. While much attention is being given to chemicals used during fracking, our findings indicate that drilling chemicals can be equally, if not more dangerous.

2012: First Study of Its Kind Detects 44 Hazardous Air Pollutants at Gas Drilling Sites, With gas wells in some states being drilled near schools and homes, scientists see a need for better chemical disclosure laws and follow-up research

2012: TINY DOSES OF GAS DRILLING CHEMICALS MAY HAVE BIG HEALTH EFFECTS, Authors of new study encourage more low-dose testing of endocrine-disrupting chemicals, with implications for the debate on natural gas drilling

2014: Canada’s National Pollutant Release Inventory [NPRI] Oil and Gas Sector Review; Chemicals injected and fugitive or venting emissions (e.g. H2S) by oil and gas industry exempt from reporting

2014: EPA Investigation report details toxic chemicals at Statoil Frac Site Explosion; Chemicals spilled into Opossum Creek – 70,000 fish killed

Officials from the EPA, the Ohio EPA, and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) arrived on the scene shortly after the fire erupted. Working with an outside firm hired by Statoil, the site’s owner, they immediately began testing water for contaminates. They found a number of toxic chemicals, including ethylene glycol, which can damage kidneys, and phthalates, which are linked to a raft of grave health problems. Soon dead fish began surfacing downstream from the spill. Nathan Johnson, a staff attorney for the non-profit Ohio Environmental Council, describes the scene as “a miles-long trail of death and destruction” with tens of thousands of fish floating belly up.

Statoil and the federal and state officials set up a “unified command” center and began scouring a list of chemicals Halliburton had provided them for a compound that might be triggering the die off. But the company had not disclosed those ingredients that it considered trade secrets. … Halliburton was under no obligation to reveal the full roster of chemicals.

… Water samples of runoff indicated the presence of TPH, 2-butanone, acetone, benzene, xylenes, toluene, bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate, 1-methylnapthalene, 2-methylnapthalene, o-Cresol, m&p Cresol, naphthalene, phenol, and chlorides. Surface water sampling results indicated the presence of TPH, acetone, bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate, phenol and chlorides downstream of the well pad.

Bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate was found by Alberta Environment in the Hamlet and Ernst’s drinking water. The regulator found naphthalene range hydrocarbons, and an increase by a factor of 45 of chromium in the Ernst water. Barium and Strontium doubled. These red flag petroleum industry indicators were ignored by the regulator and research council (now Alberta Innovates)

… Surface water sampling results indicated the presence of TPH, acetone, bromodichloromethane, chloroform, bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate and chlorides downstream of the well pad. …

2017: Study by Cornell University to be released early 2018, Did Fracking sicken Tioga Downs’ foals?

Less has been reported on the invisible and often odorless emissions continually steaming from infrastructure after the well comes on line. Those impurities rise from a mile or more below the ground with the gas and are bled off at wellheads and compressor stations or escape through leaks in the system.

Chemicals associated with gas production such as xylene, toluenefound in Lauridsen’s water after Encana’s illegal aquifer fracs into Rosebud’s drinking water aquifers and benzene found in the Hamlet of Rosebud’s drinking water after Encana’s illegal aquifer fracs can move through ground and air and cross into placentas and cause fetal exposure, according to the study proposal. Others, including phthalates found by the regulator in Rosebud’s and Ernst’s drinking water wells after Encana illegally fractured the community’s drinking water aquifers, bisphenol A and ethylene glycol, are endocrine-disrupting chemicals and neurotoxins that can affect reproductive cycles and fetal and early childhood development. …

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