Illustrated By Sydney Hass.
"Fracking" has slowly made its way into the spotlight and is now one of the key environmental issues we face. The practice (officially known as "induced hydraulic fracturing") involves shooting a solution of water, sand, and chemicals into the ground at high pressure, creating tiny cracks in underground rock formations in order to access natural gas and petroleum deposits. Environmentalists have actively opposed fracking for a number of reasons — it's extraordinarily resource-intensive, and those chemicals can (and have) made their way into local drinking-water reserves.
New research presented last week at the ICE/ENDO 2014 conference in Chicago sheds more light on just how fracking could be affecting our health. A team of scientists at the University of Missouri, Columbia tested 24 chemicals found in water samples from fracking spills in Garfield County, Colorado to determine their effects on human cells.
Of the 24 compounds, 20 were found to block the effects of estrogen; 17 blocked the effects of androgen, and 10 interfered with the activity of the female reproductive hormone progesterone. In addition, 10 of the chemicals inhibited the effects of glucocorticoid, a hormone essential to proper immune-system and reproductive function, while seven blocked the effects of thyroid hormone, which plays a key role in metabolism.
The study's authors note that we'll need further drinking-water tests to determine the risk fracking poses for the general public. With all the uproar over the practice, though, it's probably safe to assume such tests are already well underway.