Study: Fracking chemicals in water raise fertility risks by Jim Waymer, August 25, 2016, Florida Today
New research released Thursday suggests chemicals used in fracking and other gas and oil operations increase risk of miscarriages, reduced male fertility, prostate cancer, birth defects and preterm birth by disrupting hormones.
The study by researchers at Duke, the University of Missouri and several other universities is the first to report that prenatal exposure to the chemical mix used in oil and gas development, including fracking, may lead to adverse reproductive and developmental issues in female mice.
And that could bode ill for those who live or work near oil and gas wells.
“When it comes to endocrine-mediated effects, such as we’ve examined here, there is good evidence to suggest that animal studies accurately predict health effects that might be expected in humans,” Chris Kassotis, the Duke University, lead researcher on the mice study, said via email.
Kassotis said that not all of the effects might be seen in humans living near fracking operations, but that increased levels of some of them, especially heart developmental defects, have already been noted in such areas.
… The mice study, published in the journal Endocrinology, also included researchers from the University of Florida, John Hopkins, University of Massachusetts Amherst and the U.S. Geological Survey.
The researchers exposed mice to 23 chemicals — including benzene, xylenes and others associated with oil and gas operations — at levels comparable to what humans might get exposed to in drinking water near wastewater spill sites.
They found possible threats to fertility and reproduction in the exposed mice, including altered pituitary hormone levels, reproductive organ and body weights, and heart and ovarian egg development. Taken together, the authors say their results suggest potential threats to fertility and reproductive success.
The second paper the researchers released Thursday is a systematic review of the literature that examined 45 original research articles related to oil and gas and reproduction, including residential and occupational exposures.
They say the evidence from those studies suggests increased risk of negative reproductive effects from exposure to fracking and other oil and gas extraction activities, especially for miscarriages, reduced semen quality, prostate cancer, birth defects and preterm birth.
Some scientists liken such hormonal disruption to a player piano gone haywire. Chemicals such as those used in oil and gas extraction can poke new holes into the music roll or plug existing ones, changing the timing and order of the tune, or in this case, the sequence by which hormones — the chemical messengers of growth and reproduction — govern cells.
Susan C. Nagel, associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and women’s health at the University of Missouri, likens the healthy function of those hormones to a locks and keys.
“Sometimes you can get too much opening of that lock at the wrong time,” Nagel said. “And sometimes you can get a key in a lock stuck.”
The new mice study had its limits, the researchers say. Knowledge is incomplete for most of the 1,000 chemicals used in unconventional oil and gas operations such as fracking, and industry does not have to disclose all the chemicals they use.
“One of the striking things is just the lack of studies on this,” Nagel said.
There’s no fracking in Florida, yet, but conservationist fear it’s only a matter of time.
About 50 Florida cities and more than 30 counties, including Brevard, have banned the practice.
But many fracking opponents fear Florida lawmakers will overturn local bans on fracking.
In July, by a 3-2 vote, the state Environmental Regulation Commission signed off on the new water quality standards [massively deregulating, allowing significant increases in toxic chemicals allowed to be dumped in waterways, seemingly to prepare for fracing in the state] for more than 100 toxic chemicals, including benzene, a cancer-causing petroleum byproduct used in hydraulic fracking, during its regular meeting in Tallahassee. The Seminole Indian Tribe and the city of Miami have challenged the rule before the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings.
The new criteria also would have to be approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which has indicated it intends to OK the new criteria.
The new water criteria would affect the types of chemicals released during fracking, oil and gas drilling, by sewer plants, paper and pulp plants, dry cleaning businesses and other industries. Those chemicals can wind up in drinking water, fish, shrimp and other seafood. [Emphasis added]
Exposure to chemicals released during fracking may harm fertility, Endocrine-disrupting chemicals linked to altered hormone levels, ovarian development in mice Press Release by University of Missouri-Columbia, August 25, 2016
COLUMBIA, Mo. – More than 15 million Americans live within a one-mile radius of unconventional oil and gas (UOG) operations. UOGs combine directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” to release natural gas from underground rock. Scientific studies, while ongoing, are still inconclusive on the potential long-term effects fracturing has on human development. Today, researchers at the University of Missouri released a study that is the first of its kind to link exposure to chemicals released during hydraulic fracturing to adverse reproductive and developmental outcomes in mice. Scientists believe that exposure to these chemicals also could pose a threat to human development.
“Researchers have previously found that endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) mimic or block hormones — the chemical messengers that regulate respiration, reproduction, metabolism, growth and other biological functions,” said Susan C. Nagel, Nagel, an associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and women’s health in the School of Medicine. “Evidence from this study indicates that developmental exposure to fracking and drilling chemicals may pose a threat to fertility in animals and potentially people. Negative outcomes were observed even in mice exposed to the lowest dose of chemicals, which was lower than the concentrations found in groundwater at some locations with past oil and gas wastewater spills.”
Researchers mixed 23 oil and gas chemicals in four different concentrations to reflect concentrations ranging from those found in drinking water and groundwater to concentrations found in industry wastewater. The mixtures were added to drinking water given to pregnant mice in the laboratory until they gave birth. The female offspring of the mice that drank the chemical mixtures were compared to female offspring of mice in a control group that were not exposed. Mice exposed to drilling chemicals had lower levels of key hormones related to reproductive health compared to the control group.
“Female mice that were exposed to commonly used fracking chemicals in utero showed signs of reduced fertility, including alterations in the development of the ovarian follicles and pituitary and reproductive hormone concentrations,” Nagel said, who also serves as an adjunct associate professor of biological sciences in the MU College of Arts and Science. “These findings build on our previous research, which found exposure to the same chemicals was tied to reduced sperm counts in male mice. Our studies suggest adverse developmental and reproductive health outcomes might be expected in humans and animals exposed to chemicals in regions with oil and gas drilling activity.”
The study, “Adverse Reproductive and Developmental Health Outcomes Following Prenatal Exposure to a Hydraulic Fracturing Chemical Mixture in Female C57BI/6 Mice,” was published in the journal Endocrinology. Authors of the study include: Christopher D. Kassotis of Duke University in Durham, N.C.; John J. Bromfield of the University of Florida in Gainesville, FL; Kara C. Klemp, Chun-Xia Meng, Victoria D. Balise and Chiamaka J. Isiguzo of the University of Missouri; Andrew Wolfe of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, MD; R. Thomas Zoeller of the University of Massachusetts Amherst in Amherst, MA; and Donald E. Tillitt of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Columbia Environmental Research Center in Columbia, MO.
The research was funded by the University of Missouri Research Council and Mizzou Advantage, a crowd-funding campaign on Experiment.com, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s STAR Fellowship Assistance Agreement awarded to Christopher D. Kassotis. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the funding agencies.
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On Tuesday, July 26, Florida’s Environmental Regulation Commission voted 3-2 in favor of passing controversial new water quality standards that will raise the maximum allowable levels of more than two dozen cancer-causing chemicals to be dumped into the state’s rivers and streams.
The new standards, which were based on Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recommendations, were passed despite strong opposition from clean water advocates who say that the move poses a serious health threat and paves the way for widespread fracking operations in the state.
FLORIDA REGULATORS PIMPING FOR THE FRACKING INDUSTRY
The higher maximum allowable levels apply to several of the toxic chemical byproducts produced by fracking, such as benzene, leading opponents to the conclusion that the new criteria were designed to protect the fracking industry, rather than the health of Floridians.
Benzene is a known carcinogen, and the raising of allowable limits of the toxin in Florida’s waterways is seen by environmentalists as a suspicious and dangerous move.
Benzene limits are often set higher in places where fracking operations take place, and the new DEP standards were set to nearly triple the maximum allowable levels of benzene – until protests from environmentalists and the public prompted the regulators to reduce the new limits.
The previous benzene limits in Florida were already set higher than federal standards, and – even after being adjusted before the vote – the new limits will be set to nearly double federal standards.
From the Miami Herald:
“DEP initially proposed raising the standard on benzene from 1.18 parts per billion in Florida’s drinking water sources to 3 parts per billion but, after public outcry, the agency revised its criteria and reduced the level to 2 parts per billion. The federal standard for benzene is 1.14 parts per billion.”
Benzene has been linked to leukemia and other cancers of the blood, but it’s just one of the many toxic pollutants associated with fracking.
Environmental groups and concerned citizens spoke at the hearing, voicing their opposition to the new criteria, and calling for a delay in the voting until two vacant seats on the commission panel were filled by Gov. Rick Scott. The two vacant seats included one for an environmental community representative and another for a local government representative.
The demand for a delay was ignored, prompting one speaker – who was subsequently led out of the hearing by security – to remark that the governor “has spat on our decision process by keeping these seats vacant for over a year.”
NEITHER STATE NOR FEDERAL REGULATORS CAN BE TRUSTED TO PROTECT THE PUBLIC
The situation in Florida provides more evidence that state regulators are just as willing as those on the federal level to kowtow to the fracking industry – as well as other big corporate interests, such as the biotech and pharmaceutical industries.
For example, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has quietly increased the maximum allowable levels of glyphosate – the carcinogenic main ingredient of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide – while many other countries are either lowering limits or instituting bans against the use of glyphosate.
We can’t depend on regulators at any level of government to protect us from those who poison our environment in the pursuit of profits.
Sadly, in the United States, key positions at regulatory agencies are often filled by representatives of the very industries they are supposed to regulate.
And the money spent on lobbying by these industries usually far exceeds what environmental groups or concerned citizens can raise. Backroom deals are made, and policies are enacted, often with little or no input or awareness on the part of the public.
Our failed regulatory system has put us all at great risk by turning a blind eye to the dangerous health- and environmentally-threatening and polluting practices of the oil and gas industry – among others.
Our best hope is grassroots activism. By speaking out, signing petitions and raising awareness, we have a chance of making a difference. [Emphasis added]