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University of Missouri

Fracking Downside

Chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, could interfere with human reproductive hormones.

©shutterstock.com

©shutterstock.com

The controversial drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, collects oil and natural gas from rock formations by injecting them with water, sand and chemicals to create cracks or expand existing ones. The openings increase the flow of oil and gas out of rocks for extraction. Proponents tout fracking’s increased productivity. Opponents cite environmental and health concerns. MU researchers recently found that fracking for natural gas was associated with contamination of ground water and surface waters. “More than 700 chemicals are used in fracking, and many of them disturb hormone function,” says researcher Susan C. Nagel, PhD ’98, associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and women’s health in the School of Medicine. “Fracking is exempt from parts of key federal regulations to protect water quality. We found more endocrine-disrupting activity in the water close to drilling locations that had experienced spills than at control sites.” Chemicals used in fracking could interfere with human reproductive hormones testosterone and estrogen.