Fracking: Chemicals In Process May Disrupt Hormones Interview with:
Christopher D Kassotis  (MU-Student)
Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health and Division of Biological Sciences University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211; What are the main findings of the study?

Answer: The main findings of our study are twofold:

First, we found that 12 chemicals used in the fracking process disrupt hormone action. Specifically, we found that they inhibited the action of estrogens such as estradiol and androgens such as testosterone; classes of reproductive hormones that are critical for normal development and reproductive maturation.

Second, we found that surface and ground water from a drilling-dense area in Colorado has much greater hormonal activity than samples from areas with limited drilling. Specifically, ground water had elevated estrogenic activity (mimicking the effects of estrogens), while surface water exhibited anti-estrogenic and anti-androgenic activities, similar to the chemicals we tested. Were any of the findings unexpected?

Answer: I would say that most of the results were unexpected. This was designed as a proof of concept study, so we selected sites that were both in drilling-dense regions and that had spills related to this industry. We weren’t sure that we would see any difference in activity across sites.

I was also surprised at the antagonist activity that we measured both in the 12 fracking chemicals we tested as well as the surface water in Garfield County. In several cases we saw chemicals or water samples that were able to completely block the binding of estradiol to the estrogen receptor. What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Answer: I am not a medical doctor, but I hope that this study will inform both patients and clinicians to the potential for human exposure to these endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) in drilling-dense regions. Over the last twenty years, numerous laboratory studies have shown adverse health effects in animals exposed to endocrine disrupting chemicals and epidemiological studies have found correlations between exposure and human disease. We did not assess any health outcomes from the chemicals used in drilling, but show that there may be cause for concern for people living nearby and certainly a need for additional research. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Answer: The current research on this topic is decidedly lacking. Very little is known about the fracturing process, the identities of many of the chemicals used in the process, and the potential health effects of exposure to these chemicals.

Going forward, I think we need to gain a better understanding of how fracturing fluids enter water sources, which chemicals are used in the process (the identity of many chemicals used remains proprietary information), and whether there may be any resulting adverse health outcomes for humans and animals living near fracking operations.


Estrogen and Androgen Receptor Activities of Hydraulic Fracturing Chemicals and Surface and Ground Water in a Drilling-Dense Region
Endocrinology en.2013-1697; doi:10.1210/en.2013-1697

Christopher D. Kassotis, Donald E. Tillitt, J. Wade Davis, Annette M. Hormann,
and Susan C. Nagel


Last Updated on December 18, 2013 by Marie Benz MD FAAD