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Dec 17, 2013 08:52 AM EST

Fracking Causes Hormonal Imbalance, Study

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People living around fracking sites should now practice extra caution as the chemicals involved in the process can cause hormone imbalance, according to a University of Missouri study. Past studies on the process of hydraulic fracturing have been linked to infertility, cancer and birth defects.

Induced hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, involves the process of extracting natural oil and gas. Currently, the United States is behind Russia with 23.608 quadrillion in natural gas production.

Apart from the growing environmental concerns, opponents now have another reason to protest the energy industry's controversial practice. In the recent study, researchers found hormone-disrupting properties in water in and around drilling sites in Colorado when compared to areas where the process has not been employed.

"More than 700 chemicals are used in the fracking process, and many of them disturb hormone function," said one of the study's authors, Susan C. Nagel, PhD, of the University of Missouri School of Medicine. "With fracking on the rise, populations may face greater health risks from increased endocrine-disrupting chemical exposure," Daily Mail reports.

For the study, the research team analyzed 12 suspected or known endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) used in fracking and their effect on the body's male and female reproductive hormones.

The researchers then collected samples of ground and surface water from drilling and accident sites, including: parts of Colorado River (source of drainage for the fracking-rich region), Garfield County (10,000 active natural gas wells and where fracking fluids have spilled) and Boone County sites (no drilling activity).

The researchers found that samples from the drilling sites had higher levels of EDC activity including chemicals harmful to estrogen and testosterone than the control sites.

"Fracking is exempt from federal regulations to protect water quality, but spills associated with natural gas drilling can contaminate surface, ground and drinking water," Nagel said. "We found more endocrine-disrupting activity in the water close to drilling locations that had experienced spills than at control sites. This could raise the risk of reproductive, metabolic, neurological and other diseases, especially in children who are exposed to EDCs."

The finding has been published in Endocrinology.

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