The debate about the need for fracking has been raging with environmentalists issuing dire warnings and others proclaiming the urgent need for energy independence.
The evidence continues to grow that this process of extraction could be very hazardous. In some areas, people literally have been able to light the water coming out of their faucets and in other there has been a dramatically increase in earthquakes.
Now the Los Angeles Times reports in an article written by Neela Banerjee that a new study has found possible serious health concerns arising from fracking. Substances have been discovered in the water supply that are linked to infertility, birth defects and cancer.
Water samples collected at Colorado sites where hydraulic fracturing was used to extract natural gas show the presence of chemicals that have been linked to infertility, birth defects and cancer, scientists reported Monday.
The study, published in the journal Endocrinology, also found elevated levels of the hormone-disrupting chemicals in the Colorado River, where wastewater released during accidental spills at nearby wells could wind up.
Tests of water from sites with no fracking activity also revealed the activity of so-called endocrine-disrupting chemicals, or EDCs. But the levels from these control sites were lower than in places with direct links to fracking, the study found.
"With fracking on the rise, populations may face greater health risks from increased endocrine-disrupting chemical exposure," said senior author Susan Nagel, who investigates the health effects of estrogen at the University of Missouri School of Medicine.
Fracking involves injecting millions of gallons of chemical-laced water and sand deep underground to crack shale formations and unlock oil and gas. The process is exempt from some regulations that are part of the Safe Drinking Water Act, and energy companies do not have to disclose the chemicals they use if they consider that information a trade secret.
The study was published as the Energy Information Administration issued a forecast that natural gas production would continue to rise, and gas would overtake coal as the United States' main source of fuel for power plants. The fact that the domestic boom in oil and gas is driven by fracking has made discussions of its impact extremely fraught.