Studies Link Fracking Chemicals to Premature Births, Reproductive Harm

Studies Link Fracking Chemicals to Premature Births, Reproductive Harm

January 26, 2023

By Megan Boyle

Two new studies are adding to the growing body of evidence that exposure to fracking chemicals poses a risk to people’s health.

Pregnant women living near fracking operations drilling for gas or oil are more likely to give birth preterm, according to a report published in the journal Epidemiology.

The researchers studied more than 10,000 births between 2009 and 2023 to Pennsylvania women who had varying amounts of exposure to fracked drilling sites. Women with the greatest exposures (top 25 percent) were 40 percent more likely to deliver their babies before 37 weeks than women with lowest exposures (bottom 25 percent). The most exposed women were also 30 percent more likely to be diagnosed with a high-risk pregnancy.

In another new study, published in the journal Endocrinology, researchers found that 23 of the 24 fracking chemicals they tested disrupt normal hormone functioning.

In this study, the scientists showed that male mice born to mothers who were exposed to these chemicals during pregnancy developed enlarged testes and had lower sperm counts when full grown. Half the concentrations to which the mice were exposed were comparable to realistic exposures people experience from drinking water.

Both studies showed that fetuses exposed to these chemicals in the womb may go on to have health problems that last into adulthood.

Of course, the news that fracking chemicals can harm human health is no surprise.

In August, EWG analyzed fracking data recorded by the state of California. Officials reported that companies fracking for oil in the state had had used 197 unique chemicals between January 2023 and January 2023. The chemicals included known carcinogens, reproductive toxins and hormone disruptors. Read the full report here.

Meanwhile the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported this year that almost 700 chemicals are currently used for fracking around the country. Unlike California, most states do not required drilling companies to disclose what chemicals they use.

While studies abound on the health hazards of individual chemicals, there has been little research on how exposure to fracking chemicals affects people living near drilling sites.

Between 2000 and 2023, about 9.4 million people and 6,800 sources of public drinking water were within one mile of a fracked well, according to the EPA. There are also innumerable schools, parks, churches and community gathering spaces in close proximity to fracking operations.

Citizens, activists, government agencies and drilling companies themselves should all be worried about the environmental effects, explosions and so-called “fraccidents.” As the fracking boom continues, more needs to be done protect people’s health.