Two New Studies Emphasize the Health Risks of Fracking

By Yessenia Funes Aug 26, 2016

In a single day, advocates for fracking had to contend with three negative developments. Yesterday (August 25), a lawsuit was filed and two damaging studies were released to further the argument that it is a dangerous process that should not continue.  

One study, published in the journal Endocrinology, found that exposure to chemicals released during the process may threaten fertility in animals and people. The study suggests “adverse developmental and reproductive health outcomes might be expected in humans and animals exposed to chemicals in regions with oil and gas drilling activity,” said Susan Nagel, an associate professor at the University of Missouri, who worked on the study, in a press release.

The study exposed mice to 23 “commonly used unconventional oil and gas chemicals,” including benzene, which is found in rubber, and ethylene glycol, found in antifreeze. The researchers mixed these chemicals with the rodents’ drinking water at varying ranges. The two lowest doses were equivalent to concentrations reported in drinking water in drilling regions, the report notes. The highest dose corresponds with how much industry wastewater samples contain, though this is an amount which people would not typically drink. 

The other study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, draws connections between fracking and migraines, fatigue and chronic nasal and sinus symptoms as studied in 7,785 participants. "These three health conditions can have debilitating impacts on people’s lives," says study co-author Aaron Tustin, a resident physician at John Hopkins University, in a statement. "In addition, they cost the health care system a lot of money. Our data suggest these symptoms are associated with proximity to the fracking industry."

Energy In Depth, a research group created by the Independent Petroleum Association of America, was highly critical of both studies, pointing out the authors’ activism history. 

In additional fracking developments, WildEarth Guardians and Physicians for Social Responsibility filed a lawsuit yesterday against the U.S. Department of Interior and its Bureau of Land Management in the U.S. District Court. The groups are suing to end drilling and fracking on public lands.

“President Obama seems to get climate change, but he has an unexplainable blind spot when it comes to leasing public lands to oil and gas companies,” said Tim Ream, WildEarth Guardians climate and energy campaign director, in an online statement. “The Obama administration leases a million acres of public lands a year to dirty energy companies but hasn’t bothered to disclose the inevitable climate pollution? That’s not just immoral, it’s illegal, and we’re going to stop it.”

This lawsuit comes a few days after a private auction in New Orleans sold federal land off the Gulf of Mexico for offshore drilling, prompting environmental justice activists to demand the government stop granting new leases, especially in the wake of devastating floods in Louisiana.