Exposure to chemicals released during natural gas extraction might be harmful for human reproduction and development, studies say.
Unconventional oil and gas (UOG) operations combine directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," to release natural gas from underground rock. Recent discussions have centered on potential air and water pollution from chemicals used in these processes and how it affects the more than 15 million Americans living within one mile of UOG operations.
Now, Susan C. Nagel, a researcher with the University of Missouri, and national colleagues have conducted the largest review to date of research centered on fracking byproducts and their effects on human reproductive and developmental health. They determined that exposure to chemicals released in fracturing may be harmful to human health in men, women and children and recommend further scientific study.
The "weight of evidence" review of scientific literature and peer-reviewed publications, where studies are examined thoroughly for patterns and links, included international studies that focused on UOG chemicals. Reviewers say these chemicals have been measured in air and water near UOG operations, and have been associated with harmful effects in both animals and humans.
The reviewers concluded that exposure to air and water pollution caused by UOG operations may be linked to health concerns including infertility, miscarriage, impaired fetal growth, birth defects and reduced semen quality.
The research, "Reproductive and Developmental Effects of Chemicals Associated with Unconventional Oil and Natural Gas Operations," is published in the journal Reviews on Environmental Health.