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This week, more evidence came in that hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) poses potentially serious risks to drinking water quality and human health.
A team of researchers from the University of Missouri found evidence of hormone-disrupting activity in water located near fracking sites – including samples taken from the Colorado River near a dense drilling region of western Colorado.
The Colorado River is a source of drinking water for more than 30 million people.
The peer-reviewed study was published this week in the journal Endocrinology.
The University of Missouri team found that 11 chemicals commonly used in the fracking process are “endocrine disrupters” – compounds that can affect the human hormonal system and have been linked to cancer, birth defects, and infertility.
The study involved two parts. The research team performed laboratory tests of 12 suspected or known endocrine-disrupting chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, and measured the chemicals' ability to mimic or block the effects of the reproductive sex hormones estrogen and androgen. They found that 11 chemicals blocked estrogen hormones, 10 blocked androgen hormones and one mimicked estrogen.
The researchers also collected samples of ground and surface water from several sites. The water samples from drilling sites demonstrated higher endocrine-disrupting activity that could interfere with the body's response to androgen and estrogen hormones. Drilling site water samples had moderate-to-high levels of endocrine-disrupting activity, and samples from the Colorado River showed moderate levels. In comparison, the researchers measured low levels of endocrine-disrupting activity in the Garfield County, Colo., sites that experienced little drilling and the Boone County, Mo., sites with no drilling.
The rapid rise in natural gas extraction using hydraulic fracturing increases the potential for contamination of surface and ground water from chemicals used throughout the process. Hundreds of products containing more than 750 chemicals and components are potentially used throughout the extraction process, including more than 100 known or suspected endocrine-disrupting chemicals. We hypothesized that a selected subset of chemicals used in natural gas drilling operations and also surface and ground water samples collected in a drilling-dense region of Garfield County, Colorado, would exhibit estrogen and androgen receptor activities. Water samples were collected, solid-phase extracted, and measured for estrogen and androgen receptor activities using reporter gene assays in human cell lines. Of the 39 unique water samples, 89%, 41%, 12%, and 46% exhibited estrogenic, antiestrogenic, androgenic, and antiandrogenic activities, respectively. Testing of a subset of natural gas drilling chemicals revealed novel antiestrogenic, novel antiandrogenic, and limited estrogenic activities. The Colorado River, the drainage basin for this region, exhibited moderate levels of estrogenic, antiestrogenic, and antiandrogenic activities, suggesting that higher localized activity at sites with known natural gas–related spills surrounding the river might be contributing to the multiple receptor activities observed in this water source. The majority of water samples collected from sites in a drilling-dense region of Colorado exhibited more estrogenic, antiestrogenic, or antiandrogenic activities than reference sites with limited nearby drilling operations. Our data suggest that natural gas drilling operations may result in elevated endocrine-disrupting chemical activity in surface and ground water.
This study suggests a positive association between greater density and proximity of natural gas wells within a 10-mile radius of maternal residence and greater prevalence of CHDs and possibly NTDs, but not oral clefts, preterm birth, or reduced fetal growth. Further studies incorporating information on specific activities and production levels near homes over the course of pregnancy would improve exposure assessments and provide more refined effect estimates. Recent data indicate that exposure to NGD activities is increasingly common. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission estimates that 26% of the more than 47,000 oil and gas wells in Colorado are located within 150 to 1000 feet of a home or other type of building intended for
human occupancy (COGCC 2012). Taken together, our results and current trends in NGD underscore the importance of conducting more comprehensive and rigorous research on the potential health effects of NGD.
Levels of BPA in the U.S. Population
In the Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals (Fourth Report), CDC scientists measured BPA in the urine of 2,517 participants aged six years and older who took part in CDC's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) during 2003–2004. By measuring BPA in urine, scientists can estimate the amount of BPA that has entered peoples' bodies.
CDC scientists found BPA in the urine of nearly all of the people tested, which indicates widespread exposure to BPA in the U.S. population.
Finding a measurable amount of BPA in the urine does not imply that the levels of BPA cause an adverse health effect. Biomonitoring studies on levels of BPA provide physicians and public health officials with reference values so that they can determine whether people have been exposed to higher levels of BPA than are found in the general population. Biomonitoring data can also help scientists plan and conduct research on exposure and health effects.
The results showed that the participants' urinary BPA concentrations increased 69% after drinking from the polycarbonate bottles. (The study authors noted that BPA concentrations in the college population were similar to those reported for the U.S. general population.) Previous studies had found that BPA could leach from polycarbonate bottles into their contents; this study is the first to show a corresponding increase in urinary BPA concentrations in humans.
One of the study's strengths, the authors note, is that the students drank from the bottles in a normal use setting. Additionally, the students did not wash their bottles in dishwashers nor put hot liquids in them; heating has been shown to increase the leaching of BPA from polycarbonate, so BPA levels might have been higher had students drunk hot liquids from the bottles.
Canada banned the use of BPA in polycarbonate baby bottles in 2008 and some polycarbonate bottle manufacturers have voluntarily eliminated BPA from their products. With increasing evidence of the potential harmful effects of BPA in humans, the authors believe further research is needed on the effect of BPA on infants and on reproductive disorders and on breast cancer in adults.
No. The study does not confirm that at all.
Another study done in Colorado confirming that living within 10 miles from the fracking sites increases the chances of children born having birth defects :
The new findings add urgency to calls for moratoriums on fracking until the risks have been fully assessed and regulations and monitoring put in place to safeguard water supplies and public health.
But Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has said the state will sue any city that bans fracking within its borders. Indeed, in July 2012, the state sued the front-range town of Longmont, which had issued such a ban.