A study conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Missouri concluded that people who live near fracking operation sites could be at a greater risk for chemical contamination and health problems than the general public.
The scientists involved found that, of the approximately 750 chemicals pumped into the ground during fracking, several are associated with fertility and developmental problems, ranging from “poor semen quality and endocrine problems to miscarriages and low birth weight.”
The study, which used a review of about 150 published papers that examined the chemicals associated with fracking, said that every stage of operation, “from well construction to extraction, operations, transportation, and distribution can lead to air and water contamination,” and that “there are critical windows of vulnerability during prenatal and early postnatal development, during which chemical exposures can cause potentially permanent damage to the growing embryo and fetus.”
Specifically in men, chemicals used in fracking, including toluene, xylene, benzene, formaldehyde, and ethylene glycol ethers, have been associated with low sperm counts, reduced sperm motility and vitality, chromosomal abnormalities, and abnormal sperm morphology and semen viscosity.
Women exposed to the same types of chemicals have experienced a “two-fold overall reduction in fecundity,” difficulty conceiving – including the inability to conceive at all, longer menstrual periods, and premature menopause.
In addition to the aforementioned chemicals, fracking uses heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, and arsenic, all of which increase the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth. Byproducts from fracking, including ozone, have also been found to have an adverse affect on birth outcomes.
Newborns and young children face serious developmental and health issues as well. The study said that “normal development is highly controlled by hormones, and disruption by manmade chemicals can permanently change the course of development,” and a chemical used in natural gas extraction (diethylstilbestrol) could increase the risk of reproductive tract abnormalities, vaginal and breast cancer, spontaneous abortion, and stillbirth in daughters of mothers exposed to the chemical.
Sons of mothers exposed “also experienced long-term negative health impacts” that might not be expressed until sexual maturity or middle age including delayed sexual development, hypospadias, cryptorchidism, and decreased anogenital distance.
Basically, this study shows that living anywhere near, and being exposed to pretty much any of the chemicals associated with, fracking wells is incredibly dangerous not only to people’s immediate health, but also to the health of their children — before and after they are born.