Fracking Leads To Increased Testicle Size, Lower Sperm Count, And These Other Conditions

Just days after it was reported that fracking is linked to premature births, the process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at a high pressure in order to acquire natural gas has been linked to low sperm count and a host of other conditions.

New research indicates that when males are prenatally exposed to chemicals from the fracking industry, fertility is affected. The research, published in the medical journal Endocrinology, revealed that fracking may also cause increased testicle and thymus weights as well as structural changes to the heart.

According to the study’s authors, oil and natural gas operations contaminate surface and ground water with endocrine-disrupting chemicals which have a broad impact when babies are exposed to them prenatally. They measured the “endocrine-disrupting activities of 24 chemicals used and/or produced by oil and gas operations” using a gene assay. They also discovered the concentration of 16 of the 24 endocrine-disrupting chemicals in waste water samples. Twenty-three of the chemicals used in oil and fracking operations were found to affect the estrogen, androgen, glucocorticoid, progesterone, and/or thyroid receptors. When mixed, the effects were compounded. The research team’s senior study author, Dr. Susan C. Nagel of the University of Missouri in Columbia, and her colleagues say that these chemicals lead to developmental, neurological, and reproductive problems when humans are exposed to them prenatally.

Nine out of 10 times, the chemicals they tested interfered with both estrogens and androgens. Forty percent of the chemicals also affected the reproductive hormones progestogens, which are necessary for pregnancy, and a class of steroid hormones called glucocorticoids, which affect metabolism and stress. Thirty percent of the chemicals interfered with thyroid hormone signaling, Medical News Today reported.

Fracking companies have been exempt from key provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act, due to what some call the “Halliburton Loophole,” which exempts fracking operations from key provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act, making it difficult to know what chemicals are used and in what concentrations, eNews Park Forest reported.

The Huffington Post reported that the Endocrine Society found serious risks in endocrine-disrupting chemicals even in diluted concentrations.

“In a statement published last month, the Endocrine Society, a professional medical organization, described the potentially widespread health threats posed by the class of chemicals. Even at very small concentrations—say, a couple of tablespoons in an Olympic-size swimming pool—exposures to these chemicals early in life have been shown capable of derailing normal brain and sexual development, diminishing the immune system’s ability to fight disease, among other effects.”

“This study is the first to demonstrate that EDCs commonly used in fracking, at levels realistic for human and animal exposure in these regions, can have an adverse effect on the reproductive health of mice,” Nagel explained. “These findings may have implications for the fertility of men living in regions with dense oil and/or natural gas production.”

Nagel and colleagues say that their research indicated that the chemicals used in fracking can interfere with hormones when they are combined with each other and even when they are isolated.

“We can’t dismiss chemicals that we detect in our food or water just because they are at low doses,” Andrea Gore, a hormone disruptor expert with the University of Texas, explained. Gore stated, as editor-in-chief of Endocrinology, that this class of chemicals has also been linked to other health conditions like obesity, diabetes, and breast cancer.

“During development, there are so many developmental processes – structures and organization of different organs that are set up. If that gets perturbed, then an organ can really be deficient.”

Earlier this year, in a study in PLOS ONE, another study shared similar findings. In that article, authors disclosed that women who live closer to fracking sites are at greater risk of having babies with low birth weights than women who lived further from fracking sites. This summer, research conducted by the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University linked fracking to illnesses and hospitalizations.

Many localized areas have prohibited fracking due to concerns about fracking chemicals and their effect on health conditions and environmental effects.

[Photo via Pixabay]