TEDX study links fracking pollution to health impacts via EDCs

The health risks from fracking are contained in the air we breathe

It’s all about endocrine disrupting chemicals — EDCs.

Today researchers at The Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX) released a breakthrough study unequivocally linking EDCs with drilling and fracking operations. The new study provides evidence that now confirms the presence of endocrine active chemicals near unconventional oil and gas (UOG) production sites through researchers’ recently published evaluation of UOG air pollutants.

Exploring the endocrine activity of air pollutants associated with unconventional oil and gas extraction

Using systematic review methodologies, Ashley Bolden, MS, and co-authors Kim Schultz, Katherine E. Pelch, and Carol F. Kwiatkowski, surveyed the literature to identify 34 potential endocrine disruptors measured in the air near UOG sites. The research team evaluated 48 air sampling studies and the assessment of chemicals detected most frequently near these sites.

They identified 106 chemicals detected in two or more studies. Ethane, benzene and n-pentane were the top three most frequently detected. Twenty-one chemicals have been shown to have endocrine activity including estrogenic and androgenic activity and the ability to alter steroidogenesis (the biosynthesis of endogenous steroids and steroid hormones). Literature also suggested that some of the air pollutants may affect reproduction, development, and neurophysiological function, all endpoints which can be modulated by hormones. These chemicals included aromatics (i.e., benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene), several polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and mercury.

With the link between fracking and EDCs scientifically established, a basis now exists for prioritizing future primary studies regarding the endocrine disrupting properties of UOG air pollutants, including research in human and wildlife exposures. The study’s authors recommend systemic reviews of the human health impacts of specific chemicals, along with comprehensive environmental sampling of a broader array of chemicals.

The study concludes with this dire warning:

“In closing, there is evidence that individual air pollutants associated with UOG activity are endocrine active. Endocrine disruptors can have actions at low exposure concentrations, and exposures can lead to aberrant trajectories resulting in suboptimal developmental, behavioral, reproductive, and metabolic conditions. Yet, the magnitude of exposures specific to UOG, and the possible long-term health impacts, are not well understood. Further, several of the chemicals we identified are already designated by the US EPA as suspected or known carcinogens, are known to cause adverse developmental or reproductive effects, and are known for other toxicities (e.g., hearing loss, and nerve damage). Given the potential for health impacts and the lack of safety recommendations for many of the chemicals we identified, there is an urgent need to address these releases near human and wildlife populations.”

For many of us in the gas patch, the release of yet another study sets off a statewide cascade of eye rolls. So why is this study a breakthrough? Because it has been a long time coming.

Back in November 2012, the late great Dr. Theo Colborn (TEDX founder) released an independent peer-reviewed study of emissions from two well pads located in Garfield County. Colborn’s team detected high concentrations of dozens of toxic chemicals from gas wells that show up early in the drilling process, rather than during fracking. The importance of the study was to identify the non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHCs) in the air near gas drilling operations. The study also found compounds that are known “ozone precursors,” meaning they contribute to the formation of ozone at ground level, causing pollution and human health problems.

To make a long story short, since then TEDX researchers have been undergoing the long, slow, deliberate process to identify endocrine disrupting chemicals. The FrackHealth Database contains peer-reviewed studies that show the harmful effects of these chemicals. The TEDX List of Potential Endocrine Disruptors identifies which chemicals can be classified as EDCs.

Combining air sampling studies with the endocrine disruptor identification system this new study provides irrefutable evidence that chemicals emitted from UOG operations are indeed EDCs, some of which are known to cause serious, long-term human health problems. They actually do contribute to ozone pollution. And we definitely don’t know enough about what’s happening to our wildlife — or our farm animals and pets in general for that matter.

This link between UOG air pollution and EDCs represents a culmination of research begun 30 years ago by Dr. Colborn, though it wasn’t until she founded TEDX in Paonia Colorado, in 2003, when she began to turn her laser-like focus on the rapidly expanding oil & gas development closing in around us. With this study, Theo’s legacy lives on. We owe her a debt of gratitude for helping us understand how oil & gas emissions are impacting our own health.

This study is concise, easy-to-understand, and includes a clear warning signal. UOG sites are emitting toxic, endocrine disrupting chemicals that have been shown through independent, documented, peer-reviewed research to cause serious health impacts.

The study can be downloaded, forwarded, emailed, printed, and disseminated widely. It’s not rocket science. It’s human health.

Use it as a tool. Blind them with science.

View this study and other TEDX publications on the TEDX website.

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