Original Article | Published:

A systematic evaluation of chemicals in hydraulic-fracturing fluids and wastewater for reproductive and developmental toxicity

Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology volume 27, pages 9099 (2017) | Download Citation

Abstract

Hydraulic-fracturing fluids and wastewater from unconventional oil and natural gas development contain hundreds of substances with the potential to contaminate drinking water. Challenges to conducting well-designed human exposure and health studies include limited information about likely etiologic agents. We systematically evaluated 1021 chemicals identified in hydraulic-fracturing fluids (n=925), wastewater (n=132), or both (n=36) for potential reproductive and developmental toxicity to triage those with potential for human health impact. We searched the REPROTOX database using Chemical Abstract Service registry numbers for chemicals with available data and evaluated the evidence for adverse reproductive and developmental effects. Next, we determined which chemicals linked to reproductive or developmental toxicity had water quality standards or guidelines. Toxicity information was lacking for 781 (76%) chemicals. Of the remaining 240 substances, evidence suggested reproductive toxicity for 103 (43%), developmental toxicity for 95 (40%), and both for 41 (17%). Of these 157 chemicals, 67 had or were proposed for a federal water quality standard or guideline. Our systematic screening approach identified a list of 67 hydraulic fracturing-related candidate analytes based on known or suspected toxicity. Incorporation of data on potency, physicochemical properties, and environmental concentrations could further prioritize these substances for future drinking water exposure assessments or reproductive and developmental health studies.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. 1.

    , , . Potential public health hazards, exposures and health effects from unconventional natural gas development. Environ Sci Technol 2014; 48: 8307–8320.

  2. 2.

    United States Department of Energy & National Energy Technology Laboratory. Modern Shale Gas Development in the United States: An Update, 2013. Available from .

  3. 3.

    United States Environmental Protection Agency. Assessment of the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas on Drinking Water Resources. EPA/600/R-15/047a, 2015. Available from .

  4. 4.

    United States Environmental Protection Agency. Study of the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing on Drinking Water Resources: Progress Report. EPA/601/R-12/011, 2012. Available from .

  5. 5.

    , , , , . Disclosure of hydraulic fracturing fluid chemical additives: analysis of regulations. New Solut 2013; 23: 167–187.

  6. 6.

    , , , , , et al. Natural gas residual fluids: sources, endpoints, and organic chemical composition after centralized waste treatment in Pennsylvania. Environ Sci Technol 2015; 49: 8347–8355.

  7. 7.

    , , , , , . Characterization and analysis of liquid waste from marcellus shale gas development. Environ Sci Technol 2015; 49: 9557–9565.

  8. 8.

    , , , , . Physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of compounds used in hydraulic fracturing. J Hazard Mater 2014; 275: 37–54.

  9. 9.

    , , , , . Environmental health research recommendations from the Inter-Environmental Health Sciences Core Center Working Group on unconventional natural gas drilling operations. Environ Health Perspect 2014; 122: 1155–1159.

  10. 10.

    Institute of Medicine. Health Impact Assessment of Shale Gas Extraction: Workshop Summary. The National Academies Press: Washington, DC, 2014. Available from .

  11. 11.

    , , , , . A critical review of the risks to water resources from unconventional shale gas development and hydraulic fracturing in the United States. Environ Sci Technol 2014; 48: 8334–8348.

  12. 12.

    , , , , , et al. Assessment and longitudinal analysis of health impacts and stressors perceived to result from unconventional shale gas development in the Marcellus Shale region. Int J Occup Environ Health 2013; 19: 104–112.

  13. 13.

    , , , , , et al. Water resource impacts during unconventional shale gas development: the Pennsylvania experience. Int J Coal Geol 2014; 126: 140–156.

  14. 14.

    , , , , , . Groundwater protection and unconventional gas extraction: the critical need for field-based hydrogeological research. Groundwater 2013; 51: 488–510.

  15. 15.

    , , , . Methane contamination of drinking water accompanying gas-well drilling and hydraulic fracturing. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2011; 108: 8172–8176.

  16. 16.

    , . Water pollution risk associated with natural gas extraction from the Marcellus Shale. Risk Anal 2012; 32: 1382–1393.

  17. 17.

    , , . Environmental public health dimensions of shale and tight gas development. Environ Health Perspect 2014; 122: 787–795.

  18. 18.

    , , , . The effects of shale gas exploration and hydraulic fracturing on the quality of water resources in the United States. Procedia Earth Planet Sci 2013; 7: 863–866.

  19. 19.

    , , , , , et al. Geochemical evidence for possible natural migration of Marcellus Formation brine to shallow aquifers in Pennsylvania. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2012; 109: 11961–11966.

  20. 20.

    , , , , , . Analysis of BTEX groundwater concentrations from surface spills associated with hydraulic fracturing operations. J Air Waste Manage Assoc (1995) 2013; 63: 424–432.

  21. 21.

    , , , , , et al. Evaluating a groundwater supply contamination incident attributed to Marcellus Shale gas development. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2015; 112: 6325–6330.

  22. 22.

    , , , , , et al. Increased stray gas abundance in a subset of drinking water wells near Marcellus shale gas extraction. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2013; 110: 11250–11255.

  23. 23.

    , , , , . Impact of shale gas development on regional water quality. Science (New York, NY) 2013; 340: 1235009.

  24. 24.

    , , , , , . Hydraulic "fracking": are surface water impacts an ecological concern? Environ Toxicol Chem 2014; 33: 1679–1689.

  25. 25.

    Pennsylvania Land Trust Association. Marcellus Shale Drillers in Pennsylvania Amass 1614 Violations Since 2008. 2010. Available from .

  26. 26.

    , , , , , et al. A comprehensive analysis of groundwater quality in the Barnett Shale Region. Environ Sci Technol 2015; 49: 8254–8262.

  27. 27.

    , , , , , . Iodide, bromide, and ammonium in hydraulic fracturing and oil and gas wastewaters: environmental implications. Environ Sci Technol 2015; 49: 1955–1963.

  28. 28.

    , , . Practical measures for reducing the risk of environmental contamination in shale energy production. Environ Sci Process Impacts 2014; 16: 1692–1699.

  29. 29.

    , , , , . Estrogen and androgen receptor activities of hydraulic fracturing chemicals and surface and ground water in a drilling-dense region. Endocrinology 2014; 155: 897–907.

  30. 30.

    , , , . Natural gas operations from a public health perspective. Hum Ecol Risk Assess 2011; 17: 1039–1056.

  31. 31.

    , , , , , . Developmental and reproductive effects of chemicals associated with unconventional oil and natural gas operations. Rev Environ Health 2014; 29: 307–318.

  32. 32.

    , , , , , . Birth outcomes and maternal residential proximity to natural gas development in rural colorado. Environ Health Perspect 2014; 122: 412–417.

  33. 33.

    , , , , , et al. Perinatal outcomes and unconventional natural gas operations in Southwest Pennsylvania. PLoS One 2015; 10: e0126425.

  34. 34.

    , , . Identification of sentinel health events as indicators of environmental contamination. Environ Health Perspect 1991; 94: 261–263.

  35. 35.

    , , . Sentinel health events of environmental contamination: a consensus statement. Environ Health Perspect 1994; 102: 316–317.

  36. 36.

    FracFocus Alliance. Available from (accessed 11 August 2015).

  37. 37.

    . Data availability in reproductive and developmental toxicology. Obstet Gynecol 1994; 83: 652–656.

  38. 38.

    . What's next after 40 years of drinking water regulations? Environ Sci Technol 2011; 45: 154–160.

  39. 39.

    United States Environmental Protection Agency. Integrated Risk Information System. Available from (accessed 7 August 2015).

  40. 40.

    United States Environmental Protection Agency. National Primary Drinking Water Regulations, 2009. Available from (accessed 11 August 2015).

  41. 41.

    United States Environmental Protection Agency. Drinking Water Contaminant Candidate List (CCL) and Regulatory Determination. Available from (accessed 11 August 2015).

  42. 42.

    United States Environmental Protection Agency. Estimation Programs Interface Suite for Microsoft Windows (EPI Suite), 2012. Available from (accessed 31 July 2015).

  43. 43.

    United States Environmental Protection Agency. Sustainable Futures and P2 Framework Manual. 2012. Available from .

  44. 44.

    , , , , , . Assessment of the acute and chronic health hazards of hydraulic fracturing fluids. J Occup Environ Hyg 2015; 12: 611–624.

  45. 45.

    , , , . Biocides in hydraulic fracturing fluids: a critical review of their usage, mobility, degradation, and toxicity. Environ Sci Technol 2015; 49: 16–32.

  46. 46.

    United States House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce, Minority Staff. Chemicals Used in Hydraulic Fracturing, 2011. Available from .

  47. 47.

    , , , . A framework for identifying organic compounds of concern in hydraulic fracturing fluids based on their mobility and persistence in groundwater. [letter]. Environ Sci Technol 2015; 2: 158–164.

  48. 48.

    , , , , , . A comprehensive model for reproductive and developmental toxicity hazard identification: II. Construction of QSAR models to predict activities of untested chemicals. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol 2007; 47: 136–155.

  49. 49.

    United States Environmental Protection Agency. Regulation of Hydraulic Fracturing Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, 2014. Available from (accessed 10 July 2015).

  50. 50.

    . Review of risks to communities from shale energy development. Environ Sci Technol 2014; 48: 8321–8333.

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Yale School of Public Health, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA

    • Elise G Elliott
    • , Brian P Leaderer
    •  & Nicole C Deziel
  2. Center for Perinatal, Pediatric, and Environmental Epidemiology, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA

    • Elise G Elliott
    • , Adrienne S Ettinger
    • , Brian P Leaderer
    • , Michael B Bracken
    •  & Nicole C Deziel
  3. Department of Chronic Disease Epidemiology, Yale School of Public Health, New Haven, CT, USA

    • Adrienne S Ettinger
    •  & Michael B Bracken

Authors

  1. Search for Elise G Elliott in:

  2. Search for Adrienne S Ettinger in:

  3. Search for Brian P Leaderer in:

  4. Search for Michael B Bracken in:

  5. Search for Nicole C Deziel in:

Competing interests

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Nicole C Deziel.

About this article

Publication history

Received

Revised

Accepted

Published

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/jes.2015.81

Further reading